The loud and obnoxious tooting of a Pakistani truck horn can cause your heart to vibrate deeply for minutes and it also has the power to temporarily deafen you as it zooms past you.
But yes, it is still a dazzling sight.
I am no art connoisseur and its fine by me because not everyone has the ability to appreciate art in the best of its forms. Yet one very Pakistani art on wheels is something that cannot be overlooked.
While the loud horns have always succeeded in bringing my heart to my throat, I have never been able to ignore the uniqueness of the art and carvings on Pakistani trucks. From portraits to peacocks to cheap poetic lines painted in the loudest of colours, it is one art form that sticks with you for a long time.
The brightly and painstakingly painted art forms decorated with tassels and sometimes an odd shoe hanging off the rear of the truck or rickshaw to ward off the evil eye are so eye-catching that one wonders at the depth of the mind of the master painter.
On my usual trips to Pakistan and especially when I had to visit my relatives in Khushab, a district in Punjab, we had to travel the highway where most of these trucks ply. And I recall that as a youngster, I craned my neck out of the car windows just to see as far as I could the detailed brightly coloured trucks. Almost all of the trucks were adorned with the biggest pictures of Pakistani folk singer Attaullah Essa Khelvi whose songs also used to be blaring at the loudest volumes ever. So, somehow, Essa Khelvi and truck art go hand-in-hand for me.
Pakistani truck art has already come of age. And now the art isn’t particularly limited to trucks but you can see it on rickshaws, locally plying buses and even on the kulfi-walas carts albeit one or two brightly painted flowers in greens and reds that remind you of something very Pakistani.
It’s so much so popular that Pakistan’s tourism industry has been using it to promote local art abroad. The brightly painted miniature trucks are also available at duty free shops as souvenirs and adorn many Pakistani houses as well.
While the home grown art is already transcending borders, the poetic lines casually thrown around are thought provoking and can make one chuckle. Tu langh ja saadi khair hai (roughly translated to: You can overtake, I am okay) or Maa ki dua, jannat ki hawa (A mothers prayers are the winds from paradise).
My fascination for truck art kept growing over time so much that a couple of years ago I chased down a truck when I spotted a tiny colourful painting on its white exterior on a Dubai road finally asking the driver to pull over and talk to me on the roadside.
Though I did write the story, there wasn’t much depth to it because by law the trucks and lorries in UAE have to be kept a bare white. However, since the driver was a Pakistani Pathan and being artistic as they are, he’s used a workshop to paint something small though similar to what he would have done to an entire truck had he been in Pakistan.
I sometimes carry this art form with me especially when patriotism rares its head. On and off, it adorns the lock screen of my phone.