Indian Homemaker has assembled an excellent photo collection of Indian trucks. I’ve commented [UPDATE THIS LINK]before on the similarities and differences between Indian and Pakistani trucks, but her pictures, translations, and brief comments are actually more informative than the broadcast coverage of Indian trucks.
There are several points that struck me as I looked through the pictures. First, Indian truckers seem much more concerned about safety than their counterparts. The rear of every truck has safety-related instructions. From these pictures “Blow Horn”, looks the most widely used, but other accounts find “Horn OK” as more frequent. “Use Dipper at Night” asks drivers to switch from a high beam to a low beam (or is it just saying, turn on your lights!). For the Indian trucks, this guidance is much more prominent than any pictures, poetry, or quips, which are the most visible fixtures on the rear of Pakistani trucks. Although not featured in any of Indian Homemaker’s collection, some Indian trucks do have murals on the rear, which look quite similar to Pakistani paintings.
In marked contrast to Pakistani trucks, which have a uniformly feminine appearance, Indian trucks vary in sex and age.
“Don’t miss ‘Chamiya’ ( a flashily dressed woman?) on the middle flap This truck is female Many trucks are also referred to as sons (beta), daughters (beti), tigresses (shernee) and ladla (a male brat) or laadli (female brat)”
Though it is noteworthy no trucks are called adult men, Indian trucks can be masculine. I’ve never heard a Pakistani vehicle given a male name.
The religious imagery on trucks are not specific to any faith. Allah Akbar (or some variation, such as Mashallah or Subhanallah) appears on every Pakistani truck and are distinctly Islamic. Religious decorations on trucks are much more universal, such as “God is One” and “God is Universal.” With such a range of Hindu deities to choose from, the absence of religious imagery may be a move to avoid sectarian strife. There probably is no advantage to having a truck that is easily identified as Hindu, Muslim, or Sikh as it limits access to certain areas, which is not a concern in Pakistan. (Though apparently Indian Homemaker’s selection is not a representative sample, and Hindu gods are painted on trucks, as this picture shows).
More broadly, truck design in both India and Pakistan adhere to unwritten guidelines which are remarkably different, yet widely followed. Spaces are clearly defined – religious imagery on the front in the case of Pakistani vehicles, an area for warning other drivers on the rear in Indian vehicles – even if there is no formal explanation of this specific purpose. Although the messages are straightforward and usually replicated blindly, the process by which truckers and truck artists came to associate certain areas of their trucks with certain messages is much more complex.