Why Truckers Paint their Trucks So Bright
A second home
Vibrant trucks crisscrossing the countryside, flaunting through the desert highways and parked outside crowded dhabas, are a travelling canvas of art. They bloom with lettering and painting in vibrant colours, quirky slogans, and gripping illustrations that make every truck a canvas to catch the eye.
A history of truck art can be traced back to the Jingle Truck and Crown Truck culture of Pakistan, where artistry started to help the business of the truckers.
According to Kishori Lal, a trucker at the Sanjay Gandhi Transport Nagar in Delhi, in later stages "The art form became a mode of expression for truckers, predominantly in south Asian countries, like India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. In India, the most beautiful trucks are the trucks from Kashmir. They don't only paint the trucks but also decorate it with stonework and strings.”
"Once a truck comes in, washing it, checking for basic repairs, applying the base colour and then customising it with paintings and slogans of the trucker's choice is part of our chores," says Anil, who works with Kishori Lal in repairing and painting the trucks.
Another truck painter says that “Most of the time, we draw Shera and Eagle. The truckers from UP definitely prefer to get a cow or a peacock done on their trucks. Along with that, truckers prefer to get spiritual slogans like Maa Ka Ashirwad, Har Har Maha Dev and Radhe Radhe painted either on the front or back of their truck.
“Other more interesting slogans include filmy dialogues like Buri Nazar Wale Tera Muh Kala, Dil Dhadkne Do, Has Mat Pagli Pyar Ho Jayega, or nationalism slogans like Mera Bharat Mahan and Bharat Mata ki Jai.”
Surprisingly perhaps, no two fonts ever look the same.
"I have been doing likhai ka kam (lettering) for the last 30 years and all I can say about it is: every lettering artist has his own unique style and preferences in fonts like italics, bold, Arabic, and so on, and each of them is equally appealing and aesthetic.” You will realise no two trucks look the same, says Kishori Lal, a calligraphy artist himself.
Discussing how the culture has changed, he asks a coworker to bring in a mica stencil. "The modern truck art culture uses these stencils. They even use stickers to make it less time-consuming, in situations when work has to speed up under bulk orders - but the essence and satisfaction that the handmade paintings serve can obviously not be attained from any stencils or stickers."
Why do truckers get their trucks painted? A truck painter explains, “Madam unka ghar hai ye (It’s their home). Ab yahi rehte hai, yahi khaate hai toh sajaa bhi lete hai isse.” And it’s true, a trucker spends almost two-thirds of the year on the road, in one huge truck. He eats, drinks, drives, and sleeps in the same nine-metre-long vehicle making it his second home.