Indian Railways has announced a fare hike effective from 1 January, 2020
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“Maalik ki gaadi, driverka paseena, chalti hai sadko par bankar haseena.” If one line could encompass this entire book, this would be it. Loosely translated to “the owner’s car, the driver’s sweat, she struts on the highway like a belle,” this calligraphy on a truck is probably doing rounds of India’s highways as we speak. Rajat Ubhaykar’s Truck De India! is a journey into the gentle giants that rule the country’s highways, fuelling the economy night by night.
Starting in Mumbai, the book travels with Ubhaykar through Rajasthan and Punjab, Haryana and Kashmir, Manipur and Nagaland, and finally down to Kanyakumari, with only the vast ocean left to traverse. His stories of hitchhiking with truck drivers—and their khalassis (helpers)—interweave with the on-ground logistics of the trucking industry, from the law to the norm.
Over a month-and-a-half on the road, we are captivated by the kindness of strangers and the generous lives that exist within the trucks that we let pass us by. Raju’s refreshing—and cringe inducing—naiveté, Jora’s resilience, and the Simba- Timon-and-Pumba-esque camaraderie between Chhotu, Hari and Ramu are just a few moments that put a smile on our face while the book has many.
Ubhaykar is not a journalist interviewing his sources here, he’s merely a pit-stop on the journey of life that these truckers have embarked upon. Some abandoning him unceremoniously, while others forming a friendship for life.
“I will wait for the next time I chance to travel with these large-hearted sovereigns of the road,” he wrote “I suspect the day isn’t far. It only takes a yearning for adventure, after all, and a thumb, pointed in the right direction.”
As for me having read this book, the yearning for adventure lies in peering into the cabins of the trucks I see pass me by on the busy Delhi roads. Where has it come from? Where is it going? What are they carrying? Does this ustad have a khalassi? Maybe one day I’ll be able to answer these questions too, with a backpack and thumb in tow.
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