The Meaning of Family
People who deeply care for each other often foster loving and familial, long-term relationships. Mahtab Narsimhan’s the tiffin shows how Kunal, a boy abandoned by his mother, finds an unexpected family among the local dabbawallas and a fatherly figure in the elderly dabbawalla Vinayak. Family is not confined to people bonded by blood, but includes those who are not related, yet still care for each other’s safety and wellbeing. Kunal enlists the aid of the dabbawallas to help reunite him with his mother, and in doing so they eventually become a part of the family he dearly longs for. When Kunal meets the dabbawallas, he sees that they are already a tightly knit family. Upon returning home one night, he hears the merry sounds of the dabbawallas and thinks that they are partying without him because “He did not belong to their family [so] they hadn’t included him in their celebrations.” (Narsimhan 145). However, Kunal later learns that the dabbawallas had gathered to help write notes to find his mother because they know how badly Kunal wants to find her. The wish to help the young boy indicates that they have already accepted him as part of their own family. Kunal is abashed by his earlier disappointment in not being invited to what he assumes was a celebration. So, he makes “a promise to himself; no matter where he was...he would never forget the dabbawallas, or their kindness.” (147). He understands that the dabbawallas’ commitment to helping him find his mother goes beyond that of friends’, and their desire to help him find a place where he can feel like he belongs, is the desire of people who truly care about him; a family. The day that the notes are being delivered, Kunal worries that his mother may not receive a note or decide to not return to him. One dabbawalla assures Kunal that they will find his mother, leading Kunal to reflect, “How willingly he and the others had jumped in to help him. These were friends to whom he’d be...
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