We often forget that trucks play a vital part of our lifestyle. Horn Please – Trucking in India attempts to connect us with the picturesque existence of trucks

Trucks! When you hear the word, the things that come to mind are drunkenness, AIDS, traffic jams and accidents. What we fail to notice is their vivid colours, the lives of the truck drivers, their joys and the numerous places they go to,” says Divya Jain.

Horn Please — Trucking in India is a recently launched coffee table book, conceptualised and curated by Pawan Jain and Divya Jain. The book is the result of four acclaimed international photographers — Sephi Bergerson, Zackary Canepari, Claude Barutel and Thomas Pickard — travelling across the country in trucks, over four years.

Kitsch and colour

The book is a compilation of photos with minimal text and each page presents a lot of kitsch, endless colours and landscapes — all celebrating trucks. From a snow-laden truck in the Himalayas to a truck hitching a ride on a boat in the backwaters of Kerala and two elephants reaching across trucks at a toll booth, the book captures timeless moments – each a tribute to the transport movement.

Talking to Metroplus at the Bangalore office, Divya says the book is a celebration of trucking. “Every truck has an identity and personality that reflects the driver and the region where it’s from. We’ve not tried to make it all positive. We have presented the facts as it is and yes, there are negatives. But there is a lot of good.”

On what led her to take this initiative, Divya says she comes from a family of trucking. “My father-in-law runs Safexpress, a logistics company. I always felt this neglected industry was never given its due credit. It’s highly unorganised as a sector and that is something we wanted to change. It’s actually the most important sector to the economy. From cricket matches to elections, truckers play a significant role in connecting the entire country.”

She further explains that the general perception is that this occupation is not for the talented or the well-read. “In fact, the biggest logistics companies are run by people from some of the biggest business schools actually. The truck drivers themselves are not given any sort of respect however. They are literally at the bottom of the pyramid. So we wanted to make a difference and use the book as a social message to say trucking is beautiful and truck drivers are our unsung heroes.”

There were a lot of challenges, Divya explains. “The subject itself is not well defined. There is no start or end. Every state, every region and every festival has different kinds of trucks. Our biggest challenge was to contain all of that in the book.”

Moreover, a truck is a moving object, she adds. “None of the photographs were staged. So there is a lot of waiting. For example, a photo of a lone lorry through the tea plantations of Munnar took hours of waiting.” Even the circumstances made the book hard, she further says. “A truck driver travelling from Delhi to Chennai has to make 73 official and unofficial stops. From paying taxes at check posts to bribing groups of people who threaten to hijack the truck to dhaba owners, they are constantly harassed. Getting them to open up was a challenge. Zach, one of the photographers, travelled in the trucks with the drivers for a few weeks and got them to open up. Some of the most beautiful soul-wrenching shots were shot there.”

The former banker says she was inspired to take up the project when she was working with her husband in skill development for the truckers. “We felt it was necessary to get this sector organised and bring in a level of structure in the industry that will give them a better life. We launched a company called Safeducate that primarily involves in blue collar skill development and equips truck drivers. Through the book, we want to campaign for their cause and spread awareness as well as reach out to policy makers.”

Looking ahead, Divya dreams of making Horn Please mean something. “From the sheer design element to the social message in it, the book is a concept that we want to take to the international level. It’s a different way of looking at India.”

Horn Please — Trucking in India is available at bookstores and online and is priced at Rs. 2,500.