Mumbai, April 14: For the first time after the two years of Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, Mumbai's famed Dabbawalas have gone on a five-day break to celebrate the annual village festivals with their near and dear ones, a spokesperson said here on Thursday.

Since the start of the pandemic, this is the first opportunity for over 5,000 Dabbawalas to take time off to travel to their villages, mostly in Pune district and celebrate the festivities of Dev Khandoba, their deity. Viral Video Shows Ambernath Man Suffering Minor Burn Injuries After Birthday Candle Blows Up on Him.

"Prior to the pandemic we used to announce our annual festival leave in advance to enable customers to make alternative arrangements. This year, there are four holidays of the five-day sojourn, so our patrons readily cooperated," said Ritesh S. Andre, spokesperson for Nutan Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Charity Trust and Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Association (NMTBSCT and MTBSA).

Since Tuesday, a majority of the Dabbawalas -- 95 per cent of the tribe -- have reached their villages like Khed, Junnar, Maval, Mulshi, and the rest scattered across Maharashtra, he added.

During the pandemic lockdown, the Dabbawalas were among the worst-hit service sectors with business trickling down to virtually zero and many took up alternative jobs or even quit their world-renowned profession.

The NMTBSCT and MTBSA also explored options like large community kitchens for large-scale deliveries, tying up with other organisations in similar businesses, etc., to ensure livelihood for the then jobless Dabbawalas.

"Presently, of the 5,000 barely 1,200 Dabbawalas are on duty and serving around 20,000 customers who have started attending their offices after the restrictions were lifted in March... We expect more to join gradually and substantially by June," Andre said with hopes of hard times finally passing them.

Returning to their villages, many Dabbawalas were accorded a welcome with cheers and tears by their families from whom they had been separated and not congregated to celebrate the Dev Khandoba festival for two consecutive years.

"This year, we have been selected for the prestigious 80th 'Master Deenanath Mangeshkar Award' which will be presented to us in Mumbai on April 24," said Andre proudly, of yet another recognition to his toiling ilk.

Well before the award ceremony -- which is likely to be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi -- the Dabbawalas shall return to their daily grind from Monday (April 18) to ferry the tiffin-boxes filled with good food for their familiar customers.

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Apr 14, 2022 04:15 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website