Sunday, February 16, 2014

Trucking love

A vehicle sold as a chassis only from its manufacturer,  then custom built in numerous small and big workshops is a unique feature of the truck building industry in the Indian subcontinent. A  brightly coloured, desi truck bearing quirky messages and signature motifs speaks of the driver/owner personality and above all the love that goes into making it a spectacle of form over mere function. So when a dear friend contacted me with the idea of surprising his soon to be wed buddy with a custom 
made gift for his big day, I had to look no farther than a local truck building yard.

Here it is then, a true labor of love in more ways than one. The Truck Trunk!

Before starting the project I made a trek to a truck building yard in Masji Bunder, Mumbai.  To understand how a truck is a labor of love, one merely has to see crafts men spend days on an end building truck bodies and customizing them for their owners.   A well finished  vehicle has its  owner/ driver's personality all over it and unashamedly. For such a predominantly masculine profession and the ruggedness of a truckers life, the style of painting is surprisingly cheery, colourful and irreverent.

What better gift could there be for a biker? One that speaks of his affinity for the road and all things highway.. ? His black enfield bike called 'dug-dug' and his dreams of a biking trip to Ladhak for a honeymoon?!

Hence the Love Carrier .  Together with all the cheesy delight of the highway, bright kitschy colors, saying and one liners typical subcontinental verve and expressiveness.

The best trucks in the region come out of Pakistan. Meticulously detailed and painted in vibrant kitschy colors of the, these trucks and busses have plyed the Karakoram highway for long.   My own little truck trunk draws a lot from the tradition.

Not going too much into the details of the design history of the art form, it was easy for me to see in this small workshop in Mumbai that things are changing rapidly. A lot of the details that would be hand painted onto trucks in the past are being replaced by plastic sticker sinage. Most workshops prioritise delivering functional bodies over  individual custom finishes.  Above all , the master painters' are dwindling in numbers.

Painting this little truck trunk with  inputs and suggestions from the master painter Issar bhai has been a fantastic learning for me. Of course a detailed post about the workshop and its going ons is due.
It is a project borne out of love  and very fittingly tells a love story of sorts too! And since Feb 14th  just went past,  Belated Valentine's day folks!!!

detail of  road signs and graphics inside the box.

Detail of  a hand made  heart  tassel 


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