It started with the steel ones with small plastic snappers on its sides. A small top-open container inside it. It will carry biscuits, banana and may be a small sandesh in the small top-open container. I eyed with envy at the other five-year old opening her tiffin box, compartmentalized with a lovely Tom and Jerry cartoon on the lead (in my days Barbie wasn't immortalized). She had a small piece of cake in one compartment, pieces of apple in another and some noodles in the main compartment. My steel box can't hold that much - it was happy with its biscuits and sandesh, while I stared in envy.
Many many many years later, I observed with great interest, the office crowd walking in to different towers through different glass doors and security barriers, carrying along with them, different sizes, shapes and makes of small bags protecting and holding the stuff that sustains them throughout the day - little chaklis, some chapati, a bit of rice, may be a sabji. Amazingly colorful, in different sizes and shapes, the horizontal ones, the vertical ones, the ones carried in paper bags, the ones carried in cloth bags, some in plastic bags while some come with it's own carriers, the tiffin boxes proudly march through the glass doors, everyday, Monday to Friday. Some of them have a pouch to hold snacks, some bags have a pocket to hold a small water bottle, some have separate zips for each box, the list goes on.
Post steel-box days, when I was in possession of that small miraculous plastic card, I decided to erase all memories of steel boxes, and venture into the world of amazing, all encompassing, magic tiffin boxes; I started with Tupperware. I weighed my needs, my plastic card and my choices and settled for a round big box with a small box that comes inside and all of it in a round carrier with a handle. Hmm with the jhola on my shoulders, round tiffin on my hand, I marched towards my office, all pleased. In a month or so, suddenly the round bag was an obstacle to pay for my auto fares or swipe through the security nightmares in the so-called information-secure world. Also I started missing my water bottle. What do I do with it? Carry both the water bottle and the round carrier in one plastic (oops paper) bag? Or should I keep my water bottle locked in my pedestal. Eyes were suddenly inadvertently straying towards the other tiffin boxes marching through the glass doors. They were nice, easy to carry, Milton cases ensuring warm food...sigh. I continued with my round box.
Many more years later, dejected by the various permutations and combinations, I decided to go for a rectangular one. one big rectangle and two small rectangles that can hold 2 ounces of sabji or daal. I think I felt an urge to diet and got that really concise square box. Within days I had bigger challenges. This time a laptop bag, a gym bag, a rectangular tiffin box and water bottle. Lo behold, next to me, comes the colleague with his perfectly tidy tiffin bag, longitudinal, 3 containers, 2 small, one big, zip for snacks and a pocket to hold a 250 ml water bottle - where did he get it from?
Eyeing the illusive lucrative tiffin box, with compartments and boxes to hold the necessities of survival, Monday to Friday, I cannot help but notice how deftly my tiffin box teaches me everyday how I must wriggle out of the latest revised deadline by displaying very little availability of resources as my small 2 ounce box proclaims during the lunch time, and how I must learn to politely refuse furnishing the 200th excel sheet with the same data as my square box refuses to get inside my laptop bag. The lovely compartmentalized, water-bottle-carrying tiffin carrier next to my colleague's desk always shows me how important it is never to display all your capabilities, because believe me, come performance cycle for want of development areas, they may actually want your tiffin carrier to hold a four-piece cutlery set. It tells me always to weigh my options, because once I give in to the all fulfilling notion of the perfect tiffin 'career', I will be too comfortable to get out from my desk and away from the people around me and doing what I did for many years again and again. With its inadequacy to hold enough food, my tiffin box, gives me the option to buy a tasty side dish, every now and then from the canteen showing me how important it is to test one's market value, once in a while, by updating your resume on the job portals.
The all-illusive tiffin box - you win! I will try many combinations, but will always stay away from the perfect one! In the donkey race, I shall run the slowest.