German freerunner Jason Paul has hopped, skipped and jumped around some of the world’s major cities, but in his latest project, The Lunchbox, we get to see him weaving around the bustling streets of Mumbai, trying to catch up with the city’s iconic dabbawalas.
For the last 132 years, Mumbai’s dabbawalas have been picking up and delivering tiffin boxes across the city to make sure that over 200,000 office workers get their hot lunches on time.
Their legend is built on an intricate and efficient network, where more than 5,000 dabbawalas travel on foot, cycle and trains to transport the tiffins back and forth.
Even in an age of online food delivery systems, this near-perfect network continues to thrive. The Harvard Business School gave it a ‘six sigma’ rating for a 99.96 per cent accuracy – which means they make one mistake per 8m deliveries.
The Lunchbox sees Jason find a way around obstacles like the dabbawalas does every single day. But the former Red Bull Art of Motion winner doesn’t take the most conventional routes.
He flips, jumps and performs heart-stopping tricks as he passes through famous Mumbai landmarks like the Gateway of India, Dhobi Ghaat and Sassoon Docks. And when he stumbled across a Bollywood set, the German also showed off his dance skills.
On discovering the dabbawala network, Paul commented: “I didn’t know about the dabbawalas before this. It is very interesting that they deliver everything on time. In big cities, no one is ever on time, you’ll see people coming 30 minutes, or one hour late.
But they deliver everything on time, even though one lunchbox gets passed from one person to another so many times. It is also amazing to me that it has been passed on from one generation to the next.”
“We went to their main office to talk to them, to understand how the system works, how long it takes them to train people,” he continued.
“As a parkour athlete, I can somewhat relate to them because, in their day-to-day life, they go from one point to another and overcome obstacles on the way. Parkour is also a lot about problem-solving on the go.”
On the city of Mumbai itself, Paul said: “I love the city. At first look, it seems chaotic and easy to get lost in, but when you spend some time here, you realise there is a system, and because of the space crunch, things are quite minimalistic.
Every location is like a mini city in itself, they have a supermarket, a barber shop, a pharmacy etc. The cool thing about Mumbai is that there are some places, like Ballard Pier, where you get these great big roads and European architecture.
On the other hand, you have crowded alleys and buildings or structures which are not always at the proper angle. As a parkour athlete, it is fun to just take everything in and think of the possibilities.”
Discussing his highlights from The Lunchbox, Paul explained: “I did a flip over two tuk-tuks. The other one was when I jumped onto the double-decker bus. I was clinging to the side of it.
Being a parkour athlete is the best way of being a tourist. I get to spend a lot of time in the place, meet the people, and interact with them. We got a very positive reaction everywhere. That kind of creates some fun moments in itself.”