In Pakistan, a truck is more than just a vehicle for shipping cargo from one place to another.
It is a home away from home, and to ward off the evils which ply the country’s highways, it needs to be adorned with good luck charms.
All manners of cars, trucks, horse carts and rickshaws vie for space on Pakistan’s congested and hazardous roads.
The country’s drivers like to make as a statement and stand out from other motorists, with truck drivers spending huge sums decorating their rigs from top to bottom.
No fixture is too small for a garnish.
And why hit the road in an ordinary vehicle, when you can drive a veritable work of art like this?
At dozens of small workshops across Pakistan, trucks are detailed and decorated by hand, using very little modern machinery.
Artisans carve delicate designs into the body, which is later painted in vibrant colours, while workmen spend the first week refitting the truck’s body and reinforcing the wooden carriage.
At the same time, other artisans are busy at work transforming the truck cabin into a virtual palace on wheels.
While mechanics check to make sure the engine is running smoothly, time is also spent hammering out elaborate metal ornaments on sale in crude stalls like this one.
In a poor country where many earn less than 50 dollars a month, truck drivers often spend more than four-thousand dollars -- around a quarter the price of the vehicle itself -- dressing up their rigs.
It is a process which takes about three weeks, and truckers say it is well worth the outlay of time and cash.
“Whenever a truck driver sees a beautifully decorated truck, he thinks he should also have a truck like this. But usually he doesn’t have enough money so he goes to his family members and friends to borrow the cash.”
SUPER CAPTION: Ayub Khan, truck driver
Most of the attention is devoted to colourful paintings splashed across the sides and back of the truck.
The subjects range from Islamic motifs -- meant to bring good luck on the road -- to nature scenes, patriotic subjects, and simple decorative designs.
This painter was specially commissioned to depict a Pakistani soldier, who is doing battle with Pakistan’s arch rival and neighbour India.
Portraits of famous Pakistanis, like this rendering of former President Ayub Khan, are also popular.
Many truckers want beautiful women adorning their rigs and most of the subjects are local actresses.
A lot of the workers are young children, drafted into service as apprentices because their families are too poor to pay to for their education.
Most drop out of school and begin by painting simple designs and years later, they graduate into full fledged painters.
“We usually come into this business at the age of eight or nine. Most of us are illiterate and we join this line of work because we are poor.”
SUPER CAPTION: Munsuf Khan, painter
Pakistan’s truck drivers often spend days or weeks on the road, usually with two or three drivers sharing time behind the wheel.
Shipping goods up and down the length of Pakistan, the drivers sleep in their cabins, and spend their idle hours in roadside cafes.
“If you have a house you always want beautiful things in it. Our trucks are very much like our homes and we also want beautiful things in them. It is like a hobby for us.”
SUPER CAPTION: Riaz Ahmed, trucker
As he drives off to pick up his first shipment, Ahmed says he’s happy to be on the road again, in a truck that is very much his own.
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