Have a safe trip!

Published August 19, 2021
‘MY mentor is genuine, all others are fake’ and ‘I seek no worldly gains; just my mother’s dua’, say the messages on two separate rickshaws.—Fahim Siddiqi/ White Star
‘MY mentor is genuine, all others are fake’ and ‘I seek no worldly gains; just my mother’s dua’, say the messages on two separate rickshaws.—Fahim Siddiqi/ White Star

KARACHI: While driving on Korangi Road through Defence Housing Authority recently, I saw an extremely rusty, dilapidated car ahead of me waiting for the green light at the Aga Khan signal.

It was amusing to see the phrase prominently written on the rear window of the rickety automobile: ‘Pagal ho jaye gi’, which may loosely mean ‘Don’t look so hard at me, you will go crazy with envy’.

‘Tusi lungh jao, saadi khair aye’ [You pass by me, I won’t mind being left behind] is a popular Punjabi saying written on numerous vehicles. This is a sagacious prescription for drivers to avoid accidents. It teaches patience as most accidents result from the impulse to overtake other vehicles. Another common piece of such useful advice is ‘Fasla rakhhen’, or keep your distance, written mostly on the back of buses and other public transport vehicles. Observing this suggestion, you can avoid bumping into the vehicle which may stop all of a sudden because of something that you might not be seeing. Just see how many vehicles are dented in the back and you would know that the hitter vehicle was not driving at a safe distance.

There are so many other useful and witty quotes written inside and outside of various vehicles. You might have seen ‘Yeh meri Maan ki dua hey’ [I own it in answer to my mother’s prayers for me] written on a decrepit autorickshaw. Many would scoff at the naivete of the driver for being so pleased to have it and attribute it to his mother’s dua. But his luck may be envied by the thousands of rickshaw drivers who do not own any. For those who have big cars and assets, it also serves as a lesson: be abundantly grateful to the Creator for your abundance and share a tiny part of your riches with the poor.

Drivers in Pakistan have used the inside and outside of their vehicles as a social media platform for decades

Despite the growing use of social media platforms by educated people, the buses, trucks and other vehicles still serve as a popular space to give vent to people’s emotions. Some people share their views with the public, some have a particular message to deliver to some particular person. Some just display their creative talent and try their hands at poetry. Many popular gems of poetry can be seen written, not necessarily accurately, on the bodies of vehicles. A rickshaw driver named Nasir has Kazmi’s this couplet as a wish: Waqt achha bhi aayega Nasir/ Gham na kar zindagi pari hey abhi (Don’t despair, Nasir, good days shall come).

As a schoolchild whenever I had a chance to travel between my home and the school, that was two miles away and a free bus ride was a boon, I would enjoy reciting a ghazal written along the ceiling of the bus above the windows: Mausam badal raha hy baharon ke saath saath/ Jesay mera naseeb sitaron ke saath saath (The weather is changing with springs/ like my luck, governed by the movement of stars). The poetry was so perfect that it seemed to be penned by a master poet, not by an aspiring one, but I could not find that ghazal anywhere else in my adult days. One of the couplets read:

Ek kurb ki lakeer see hey sathe aab par/ Dooba hey kaun aaj saharon key saath saath [Agony is writ large on the surface of the water, perhaps somebody has gone down with all the props]. Another bus had this iconic Persian couplet on its front over the driver’s head: Urfi ma andesh zaghoghai raqeeban/ aawaz-i-sagan kam na kunad rizq-i-gada ra [Urfi, don’t take notice of the clamour made by the foes; barking dogs don’t reduce what’s fated for the beggar].

You can see many good couplets written on buses and trucks. Some of them are distorted by the painter to suit the circumstance or for lack of knowledge of that verse.

Many long-route buses and trucks have this pair of phrases on their back: khair naal jaa; khair naal aa (Have a safe trip!).

A coaster owner seems to be too blunt to upload his youthful post across the length of its body: ‘Geo Jan Jee’, or long live, sweetheart!

They also post phrases to eulogise their vehicles such as ‘Paharon ki shahzadi’ (The princess of mountains) and ‘Dekhnay mein doli, chalnay mein goli’ (It looks like a palanquin, but shoots like a bullet).

The creativity and wit on wheels is inexhaustible. Try to find something that could amuse you and lighten up your otherwise dull journey.

Published in Dawn, August 19th, 2021

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