|A heavily embellished Pakistani truck|
|Rani Mukherji's free road show in Pakistan|
There's much more humour on the road -- mostly on Pakistani trucks and rickshaws which is miles ahead of of our boring and overused Indian "buri nazar wale tera moonh kala". Today, I stumbled upon a Facebook group that is dedicated to listing truck and rickshaw poetry. Here are a few samplers which are quite a commentary on Pakistani society and also its politics.
Parhoge likhoge banoge vakeel
Jo jaahil rahe tou shayad vazeer
Jinay apni maa no satiay
Onay sari umar riksha he chalaiy
Bus-on main, coach-on main, wagon-on main
Bay hisoon ko hamsafar sath paiay
Jin ko mardaangi ka daawa tha
Un ko bhi ladies seat per paaiy
Driver ki zindagi ajab khel hai
Maut se bache to central jail hai
...and my personal favourite
Main bada hokar truck banoonga!
The extraordinary tradition of decorating trucks has its roots in the days of the Raj when craftsmen made glorious horse drawn carriages for the gentry. In the 1920s, the Kohistan Bus Company asked its master craftsman Ustad Elahi Bakhsh to decorate buses to attract passengers. Bukhsh employed artists from Chiniot in Punjab province whose ancestors had worked on palaces and temples dating back to the Mughal Empire, according to state-run APP agency.
This art is so Pakistani, that the freight trucks which are built by Ford, General Motors, Hino Pak are first retrofitted with very Pakistani style bodies and a special viewing deck at the top of driver's cab. The view deck is a multipurpose extra space -- used by cleaners to sleep at night and also to load extra luggage when needed. These truck bodies are then immaculately painted by street artists in brightly colored patterns.
Unfortunately, of late a lot of religious messages are being painted on the trucks. According to Jamal J. Elias, author of "On Wings of Diesel: Identity, Imagination and Truck Decoration in Pakistan", the colourful, hand-painted trucks in the last few years have been hijacked by religious groups trying to spread their beliefs.
"Traditionally, the decoration with religious significance is talismanic, in that it protects the truck, its content and the driver from misfortune. But in 2003, a religious Sunni group by the name of Tablighi Jama’at started shifting the syntax of truck decoration to advertise their particular message. This activist attitude is pushing other religious groups (Shiite and other Sunni groups) to respond, thus creating the concept of ‘missionary trucks’,” Elias wrote.
No wonder Rani Mukherji is still going strong on Pakistani roads!