The slogans that truck drivers write on their vehicles have always amused me. But I never had an idea that a lot of emotion and logic go into those words. I was apprised about all that one evening when I stopped a truck on a national highway for a routine check. What followed for the next 15 minutes was a lesson in itself.
“Saabji,” began the driver earnestly, “when a shiny new truck is driven out of the showroom, you will see ‘Chak de Phatte’ (Don’t care for others) or ‘Yeh to aise hi chalegi’ (It will run like this only) written on it”.
“Later, when the pressure from the bank for loan repayment starts bothering the owner, the slogan becomes a little sober. Then you will notice: ‘Chal Basanti, tere rab rakha’ (Run Basanti, God is your protector)”.
“Saabji, as the vehicle becomes older and loan burden heavier, pessimism seeps in and then we write ‘Rab ko lo dar sajna’ (Fear from God, Darling)”.
Not content with all this, I pressed him for more. Happy and emboldened, he continued: “Sometimes the police stops a truck and impounds the vehicle for days for reasons best known to them and we have to run from pillar to post to release our vehicle. Then we write” ‘Aa ab laut chalen’ (Let us now return)”.
If a truck meets with an accident and has minor damages, the owner writes: “Zindagi maut ki amanat hai (Life is a security of death), or ‘Jako rakhe sayian, maar sake na koi’ (Those whom God protects, nobody can harm)”.
Old trucks are generally used for carrying kabari or sand from the riverbank. Then, he added, you will see slippers and tattered shoes hanging from their bonnets and the slogan will read: ‘Buri nazar wale tera mooh kala’ (Evil eye, may you get ruined).
By now I knew all I had to know about this thriving popular culture. And, promptly I tried putting it to good use when the driver took his leave. I waved a goodbye and said: “OK, TATA. Phir milenge.”