On the road

We had a bit of a drive ahead of us and our driver pulled into a petrol pump almost as soon as we got on to the highway. I looked out of the window at the truck filling up next to us. I’ve written about art work on Indian trucks many times before, but this looked different. At eye level with me was some of the usual kitsch (featured photo), but it was executed perfectly. None of the distortions of naive art. This was a master at work.

I got off and walked around the truck. No amateur, the artists who worked on this truck. Stencils had been used. This medium is becoming commercial! But just look at that swan: wonderful lines. Never seen something like that on a truck. This could be a well-trained commercial artist, one who could as easily design a logo.

Around another tyre-well, more kitsch, this time from some cartoon. But look at that repeating motif that arches around the tyre. It is not only executed flawlessly over and over (see also the featured photo), but has been designed to be easy to execute.

An elegantly executed Hanuman was spray painted on with a stencil elsewhere on the truck. There were numerous small pieces rather than a single overall theme which I’ve seen before on trucks. Is this good or bad? Am I seeing the beginning of the commercialization of truck art? Is this the end of King Rat? By all accounts small businesses have given way to large conglomerates over the last three years. Perhaps in future large fleets of trucks will be decorated by one commercial artists’ firm, instead of one truck one artist.

The future is another place

I sat in a crowded and noisy food court in an airport. I’d just found that my flight was delayed by over an hour, making it certain that I would miss my connection and therefore reach home only in the early hours of the morning. I didn’t feel like working, so I got myself a large beer. The last time I passed through this airport, almost a year ago, the whole clan was here, and our chatter must have added to the white noise which I now noticed around me. I’d spent the clan holiday taking group portraits posed as action movie posters. But I’ll not bore you with reminiscences. If you bear with me, I propose to bore you with a rant.

I sat and stared at a large TV screen. For some reason it was playing a non-Bollywood Hindi karaoke. The lyrics scrolled across the screen as some half-familiar female model appeared in beautiful locations: “I was sent from heaven for you.” The horrible story which had dominated headlines for the last week was in my mind: a young doctor abducted from a road, gang raped and burnt to death.

This song was a reflection of an entitled male mindset: you are the apple of heaven’s eyes; women are sent for you. Consent is heaven’s prerogative. Many ancient Bollywood songs were love songs and duets, couples singing about their eternal love for each other. Those songs were set in the same unrealistic locations, but they implied mutual attraction and consent. How did they morph into this sexist song? The past was a foreign country, they did things differently there. But the future can also be a different country. I look forward to the pop culture of a more consensual future. Some of it is already being made. Will others please come forward to make it?