Truck drivers in Pakistan treat their trucks like true princesses. They may not get the same treatment from the under-maintained roads but decorated with a riot of colors, the trucks reflect a striking aspect of landscape and colorful society of Pakistan. Countries like Afghanistan, Indonesia and other countries in Central and South America may follow the same trend but the prevalence of the practice makes it unique in Pakistan. Moreover, you would be surprised to know that the decoration costs of trucks may reach as much as US$ 4000 or more without any direct economic benefit in return.
Such extravagant decoration reflects religious, sentimental and emotional worldviews of the truck driver. As a major means of cargo transportation throughout Pakistan, the trucks of Pakistan also represent a form of society’s art.
There are about 5 basic schools of truck design in Pakistan. You will observe an extremely dynamic design with modifying styles and motifs from each of these schools.
Rawalpindi: It is the most popular school of all and is responsible for the most number of truck build ups. You will notice ornate metal cowling above the windshield and extensive use of plastic appliqué in the decoration of the trucks, built here.
Swat: The place in the northwest of the country will represent you a unique carved wooden doors and limited use of plastic and hammered metalwork.
Peshawar: The city close to Khyber Pass represents a designing pattern, which is somewhere in between and have the touches of both the Rawalpindi and Swat schools.
Baluchistan: The Baluchi school presents you the most ornate design. They mostly utilize chrome extensions to their bumpers. Moreover, their decoration bears mostly geometric patterns.
You may find Kaa’ba in Makkah and Prophet’s mosque in Madinah as the most common religious symbol appearing on trucks but there are also some other themes which can be observed. Some of the most widely used themes are:
– Idealized elements of life, which include romanticized villages, landscapes and beautiful women
– Modern life elements such as pictures of political figures or patriotic symbols
– Talismanic and fetish objects like horns, yak tails and clothing items
– Talismanically or religiously loaded symbols like eyes and fish
– Religious symbols and images like Buraq
Signifance of the design
The designing is deliberately done to reflect the ongoing state of the driver as the side panels are used to reflect perceived home to signify the driver, who hardly stays at home in a social geography. The truck is the driver’s home, away from home and his means of livelihood. The decoration includes various bridal symbols, which connect to safety and the truck, and the trucker’s behavior is dominated by the livelihood. The symbols may not reflect a religious message but most of them are reflections of the religious notion of the individual’s place.