The Lunch Box

The Lunch Box

The other day I watched the movie, “The Lunch Box,” on a flight to Dubai. I liked the simplicity of the settings and profundity of the plot. It captures the reality of life as it confronts millions in India and possibly elsewhere in the world. It is stark and delicate - at the same time. It is confronting and comforting, disarming and empowering - all in one straight line of thought. In the classic postmodern genre, we are all now familiar, it gives the viewer the power to conclude and make certain value judgments, if any.

The movie depicts a certain kind of intimacy between a man and a woman who have never met. The trust that develops between these two practically strange human beings you don’t usually witness with people who claim to be intimate with each other. They feel so well connected, all because of a mistake - a mix up of the lunch box –the Dabba. Each day they leave a note for each other in the misdirected Dabba.

“I think we forget things if we have no one to tell them to,” says Saajan, whose wife died not so long ago, to Illa in one of their Dabba communiqué. In response Illa tells him that her husband is having an affair – obviously with another woman.

It made me think sideways. What if Illa’s husband had found out that she was confiding in a man, even though she had never seen him? I suspect he would never tolerate that. He would hound her until she gives up her friendship with this unknown beneficiary of her culinary skills.

 We demand that others obey the very rules that we break without the slightest guilt. We judge others with the same standard that we disregard each day with out the slightest feeling of guilt. We extract from others the severest of loyalties while we secretly relish our disloyalty. We call it double standards. But it is actually selfishness.

One day Illa discovered from her little daughter’s schoolbook that Bhutan has something different to offer. So, what is the difference between Bombay and Bhutan? In Bombay success is measured on an economic index and in Bhutan it is by the Gross National Happiness Index. Naturally, she shared this curious fact with Saajan in one of her Dabba mail.

“What if I come to Bhutan with you.” Asks Saajan in a one-line note to Illa. Neither Saajan nor Illa make it to Bhutan.

The film seems to give the impression that in Bombay, there is a third way to “succeed” in life - death. Since Bhutan is too far away, and Saajan has decided to retire in Nasik, Illa decides to opt for this third option. Step out into thin air from the top of her high-rise apartment block, like hundreds of women before her and many more after her.  While she is preparing to take her walk into “eternal happiness,” Saajan abandons the train to Nasik where he was going to spend his retired life and joins the Dabba trail in search of the origin of his delicious lunch and its mysterious creator.

“Sometimes the wrong train can get you to the right place,” Illa says in her last note to Saajan.

 Did she take the wrong train? The scriptwriter lets the viewer make his or her own conclusions.  

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