I met 21-year old Ateequr Rehman near southern Islamabad, where he was waiting for orders. Sometimes, the truck owner will give him instructions, but often he works through an agent, or booker, who collects shipping requests. The booker is located in the same truck depot and when I chatted with him, Ateequr was on a break until he received his next instructions from the booker.
He has been working as a trucker for the past six years, starting as a trucker’s assistant. He frequently plies the Karakorum Highway to Gilgit, or Skardu, which is a 3-4 day trip. Most recently, he’s been traveling to Sost, the Pakistan-China border town, which recently reopened for trade. Originally from Abbotabad, Ateequr will sometimes stay a day or two there on the trip.
He receives a fixed amount for the trip to Gilgit. The funds are expected to cover all expenses, including petrol and fines, which are a common occurrence. His last fine was for driving through Islamabad before 11 pm, when trucks are prohibited, which cost him 300 rupees. Most frequently he is fined for carrying overloaded goods.
His monthly salary is 8000 rupees, though he can sometimes make more from the funds that are unspent on fuel and fines. While there are rest stops which offer cots, he usually sleeps in the cab of the truck, or on top of truck, in the taj, or decorated headpiece.
His 1988 Bedford Rocket was last repainted in 2005, and different shops were used for repainting and repair. The truck owner, who has a four-vehicle fleet, paid for the decorations. He expects that the doors and the artwork will be repaired in 2 or 3 years. The truck does not have any decoration pieces, but he finds them beautiful and likes to see them on trucks.
Prominent on corners of the truck are several black cloths, or romal, which protect against the evil eye. Ateequr says he doesn’t believe in the evil eye, but he was pleased to tie new, clean romal in the front.
All five of Ateequr’s brothers are truck drivers. When will he stop driving? When he looses the strength in his legs, he says.
Part two will describe the different motifs and elements in the truck’s design.