If you travel anywhere in Pakistan, from the metalled sections of the Karakorum Highway to the rough tracks hewn from the sides of mountains and precipitously perched above steep ravines and raging rivers, you will have encountered colourfully decorated ‘jingle trucks’.
These lumbering beasts of burden are a kaleidoscopic canvas of elaborate designs, historical scenes and stylised calligraphy. It is believed the trend started in the 1940s with Sikh and Muslim drivers decorating their trucks with local scenes to remind them of home as they spent so much time on the road.
I spent a very happy hour in one of the yards in Rawalpindi where they transform bare chassis into finished trucks.
In the next section skilled workers built up layers of brightly coloured sticky tape cut into intricate shapes and stuck onto a backing plastic sheet which is then mounted onto the truck’s body. The black cloth hanging from the mirror is to ward off the evil eye. Similar cloths can be seen on most vehicles in Pakistan…even those at the bottom of steep ravines in the mountainous north!
Initially, I felt the yard was a Dante’s inferno of metal bashing, welding sparks and paintbrush wielding but it turns out not to be hell but a productive collective of workshops full of industrious, skilled and hard working individuals that manufacture some of Pakistan’s iconic trucks.