Tiffin Talks

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Tiffin Talks by Professor John Webb

Tiffin, it is such an evocative word, bringing to mind images of India – the aromas and tastes of spicy and delicious food and tales of the Dabbawallas of Mumbai collecting and delivering home-cooked lunches with a precision so outstanding that their system is the subject of case studies in international business schools. The three tiered metal lunch boxes, tied together and transported, often by train, are an iconic image of Mumbai. The origins of the word tiffin are somewhat obscure, while it is generally recognised as an Anglo-Indian term originating in the early nineteenth century there are also claims that it derives from Arabic or even Chinese.

For the Australia India Institute, based at the University of Melbourne, ‘tiffin’ evoked such resonance we decided it was an irresistible title for our new series of weekly seminars.

So far the Tiffin Talks have encompassed a wide range of topics, with speakers sourced from academic, student and business communities. The topics mirror the Institute’s priority areas and have included talks on health, education, environment, security, culture, business and trade.

The Tiffin Talks were intended as a forum to inform and involve those interested in India and the Australia-India relationship. It was envisioned as a way to progressively create and develop a community of people interested in and actively engaging with India. Speakers have come from academic institutions in Melbourne but also from other Australian states and on occasion from overseas.

In this publication we present transcripts of six of the 2011 Tiffin Talks in the hope of illustrating something of the flavour of the Talks. These Tiffin Talks should be read as transcripts and not as peer-reviewed journal articles and as such they are time-specific with the presentations ranging across 2011.

The Tiffin Talks take place on Thursday lunchtimes at the Institute where, over a plateful of delicious food – our Australian version of tiffin – we listen to a range of speakers who bring to life aspects of India and the India-Australia relationship. At the end of the talk there is always a lively discussion.

The Tiffin Talks are provided as a podcast and transcript on the Institute’s website.