One of the few pleasures of driving on Indian roads is reading the rich variety of homegrown graffiti scrawled on the back of vehicles, particularly trucks. Those decrepit, hunky, slow-moving smoke machines may often ply without taillights and even licence plates; but you’ll scarcely find one without graffiti on their backs. Nothing peppers long distance driving like the verbal and graphical gems that adorn the backs of vehicles. The slogans range from stark profanities to words with deep philosophical import.
Probably the most enduring of slogans on Indian trucks is the one comprising those three almost mandatory words “Horn OK Please”. You’ll find them on the backs of trucks and light commercial vehicles across the length and breadth of the country. What on earth do those words mean? I, for one, have been confounded all my life. A couple of years ago I posted a topic on ‘Horn OK Please’ on a forum on one the popular India-centric websites. The response was tremendous but no two explanations tallied. Horn OK Please is like the enigma of Mona Lisa’s celebrated smile –it remains one of the great mysteries of all time. Answers anybody?
The other class of vehicular graffiti varies from using plebeian ‘Sher-Shayari’ like “Buri Nazar Wale Tera Mooh Kala” and “Amiron Ki Zindagi Biscuit Aur Cake Mein; Driver Ki Zindagi Steering Aur Brake Mein” to simply stating ownership like “Pappu Te Piddi Di Gaddi” or counting blessings like “Kaka Kaki Cha Ashirwad”. Still others have humbling fatalisms like “Jaane Waala Kya Le Jaayega?” and purely instructional ones like “Horn And Wait For Side” or “Use Dipper At Night”. Then there is the variety that strings together the names of all family members!
For long have governments used truck backs to successfully convey the flavour of their regimes. We’ve had the 20-point programme during the infamous Emergency; “Hum Do Hamare Do”, which was amended to “Hum Do Hamara Ek”, when population control came tops on the agenda and “Grow more trees” when it was important to save the environment. The back of a truck sure is very effective media in getting messages across –the government knows that.
The current flavour of the season rides the AIDS wave. “Condom Kab Kab? Yown Sambandh Jab Jab!” exhorts us all to use condoms on every conceivable occasion. In fact, “Condom Kab Kab…” is really threatening the mysterious “Horn OK Please” in the visibility stakes. Say, are we getting any closer to solving the “Horn…” mystery? Horns and condoms –there is a tenuous link somewhere, isn’t there?