Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Children's Fiction Orphans & Foster Homes


A Novel

by (author) Mahtab Narsimhan

Cormorant Books
Initial publish date
Aug 2011
Orphans & Foster Homes, Physical & Emotional Abuse, Asia, Homelessness & Poverty
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Aug 2011
    List Price

Add it to your shelf

Where to buy it

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 10 to 13
  • Grade: 4 to 6


The dabbawallas of Mumbai deliver box lunches — called tiffins — to whitecollar workers all over the vast city. They are legendary for their near-perfect service: for every six million lunches sent, only one will fail to reach its intended destination. The Tiffin is about that one time in millions when a box goes astray, changing lives forever.


When a note placed in a tiffin is lost, a newborn — Kunal — is separated from his mother. Twelve years later, Kunal lives as a virtual slave under the thumb of his foster father, Seth. With danger and oppression making it impossible to stay where he is, Kunal asks his friend Vinayak, an aging dabbawalla, to help him find his birth mother. Vinayak introduces Kunal to the tiffin carriers, and a plan is hatched. Along the way, Kunal learns what it means to be part of a family.

About the author

Mahtab Narsimhan is the author of several critically acclaimed books, including Silver Birch Award winner The Third Eye. Her novel, The Tiffin (Dancing Cat Books, 2011), was nominated for numerous awards in Canada and was recently published in the United Kingdom and Taiwan. Mission Mumbai is her publishing debut in the United States. Mahtab is a native of Mumbai, India, and lives in Toronto, Canada. Visit her online at

Mahtab Narsimhan's profile page


  • Short-listed, Manitoba Young Readers Choice Award
  • Short-listed, SYRCA Snow Willow Award
  • Short-listed, OLA Red Maple Fiction Award
  • Short-listed, CLA Book of the Year for Children
  • Commended, <i>Resource Links</i> Year's Best
  • Commended, <i>Quill and Quire</i> Books of the Year (Books for Young People)

Editorial Reviews

“Narsimhan recounts a marvellous, well-told story about what it means to belong … When all is lost (or even just one tiffin!), Narsimhan demonstrates how hope can survive! Recommended.”

CM Magazine

“I really enjoyed travelling to Mumbai in this story, and experiencing the sights, smells, and sounds of this populous city … this is a unique survival story that will captivate junior and intermediate students.”

Maria Martella, Tinlids

“I give this book 5 stars because I absolutely love how The Tiffin provides an insight into Mumbai’s food delivery system that still continues today. I enjoyed how the author gives an insight into the life of a tiffin carrier. This story certainly has much more than meets the eye and is a celebration of culture and one of the world’s most complex and efficient food delivery systems.”

Sonika M, age 15, Metropolitan Washington Mensa

“[The Tiffin] is a great book about social consciousness … because it can show you that just because someone lives halfway around the world doesn’t mean they’re not dealing with the same issues you’re dealing with.”

National Post

“Melding the fantastically factual with fiction, Narsimhan sheds light on a relatively unknown part of Mumbai life while simultaneously creating a compelling quest that reads like a classic folk tale. Forgive the groan-inducing wordplay, but a novel this original is one in six million.” Starred Review

Quill & Quire

Librarian Reviews

The Tiffin

The dabbawallas of Mumbai deliver lunches all over the city, and for every six million lunches sent, only one will fail to reach its destination. When a note placed in a tiffin (lunch box) is lost, young Kunal is separated from his birth mother and ends up living as a slave with his foster father. Vinayak, a kindly old dabbawalla, takes Kunal under his wing, helping the boy hatch a plan to reunite with his mother.

Source: The Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Best Books for Kids & Teens. Fall, 2012.

Other titles by Mahtab Narsimhan