I have always considered truck drivers and their metal ‘steeds’ as ‘Knights of the Highways’, without which our national landscape would look colourless and devoid of life. While the trucking industry is viewed as a convenient means of commercial logistics, I view it from a totally different perspective - a way of life hallmarked by adventure, excitement, humour and camaraderie.
While there are many truck artists operating countrywide, there is one name that appears on every other vehicle. This is a gentle man by the name of Kafil Bhai, who plies his trade from somewhere in Ghotki and has become a household word in trucking circles.
I once embarked upon a project to document the verses that adorn our trucks. I have so far filled up one thick register, but more new verses appear as each day passes and I have already half-filled my second repository. I have often wondered as to who is the genius that concocts these verses and one-liners, as it is their directness, simplicity and wit that captivates people into situations, where there is a great likelihood of you rear ending the truck that has riveted your attention. Here are some nuggets from my collection:
“Gul gaya, bulbul gaya;
Bus sookhay patte reh gaye;
Yaar to sab mit gaye;
Ulloo-key-pathe reh gaye.”
“Horn dey tey rasta ley;
Warna piche phasya reh.”
“Naqab leney ka kiya faida;
Aankhen to dikh rahi hain;
Chehra chupa nay ka kiya faida.”
“Yeh jeena bhi koi jeena hai;
Jehlum key aage Dina hai.”
“Speed meri diwangi;
Overtaking mera nakhra.”
“Kabhi aao nah Mardan khushboo laaga key.”
“Ziyada kareeb naa ho;
Warna piyar ho jaega.”
“Dil ko dil se rah hoti;
Goli marain to thah hoti hai.”
The passion for truck art has not restricted itself to large multi-wheelers, but has found a disciple in a unique individual, who hails from Antwerp (Belgium), but has made Islamabad his home. One is apt to see this gentleman riding his Vespa on the roads of the federal capital, with the difference that his machine is an amazing specimen of Pakistani truck art.
My family and friends often remind me that I am rather obese. I attribute this phenomenon to my passion for overeating at truck driver hotels. I use a simple yardstick for selecting the source of my meal – the number of trucks standing at the spot. I can say, without an iota of doubt, that if anyone is looking for a good food connoisseur, then look no further than your everyday truck driver. A driver hotel owner once told that his worst nightmare is a courtyard devoid of any trucks.
The most amazing of these eating spots in my reckoning is an establishment a few kilometres short of Havelian. The ideal time to visit this place is for lunch and order stir-fried vegetables. We did so and were pleasantly surprised to see the assistant cook walk across to the fields in the rear of the kitchen and harvest fresh bhindis. The meal served to us was an experience that we never forgot – a mixture of freshly harvested vegetables and unadulterated spices, downed with piping hot rotis.
I maintain that our trucking culture has the possibility of becoming a huge tourist attraction if exploited intelligently. Perhaps, a beginning can be made by setting up a truck art museum or a restaurant with a truck art theme. Who knows that this particular industry may well become a good source of revenue generation for our cash starved economy?
n The writer belongs to a very old and established family of the Walled City. His forte is the study of History.