Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Mumbai / Bombay Dabbawallahs

Popeye's Pekinese Palak: Documenting the "world wide web" of stuff is fun, but it takes long years of research, filled with intervals of serious contemplation! As evidence, I present two photos. The first is of "Popeye's Fried Chicken" in Beijing, taken by me in 2001 (you know the place, it's right next door to "Kenny Rogers' Roasters"). The man in the Popeye suit is Chinese, of course, but that doesn't matter. The second photo, from 2006, is of one of Mumbai's (Bombay) famous dabbawallahs, the guys who deliver thousands of hot lunches in "tiffens" throughout the city to people who wouldn't be caught dead eating American fast food. Notice, however, the detail of the red lunchbag --- it's Popeye! Big deal, you say? Well, if you ask me, these two pictures suggest that at the very least, there are important nuances to globalization. As I marveled at China's new wealth and the replacement of Chairman Mao's images with those of Colonel Sanders, I asked myself: "Who am I to tell Chinese my age (or anyone for that matter) that they 'shouldn't' be eating American fast food?" While my family was happily/unhappily gobbling up the benefits of life in post-war suburban America, these people were getting rotten teeth and stunted growth from three years of national mass starvation! As for the lunchbag --- probably made in China? What's inside is more important. And people in India knew the virtues of spinach millenia before the muscle-bound sailor made his appearance in our comics and cartoons. I think. Now I have to do some research to find out where spinach was first cultivated and consumed...

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