A closer look at the lives of men always on the roads carrying goods for us

How novel a book of trucks can be? An intrinsic part of our lives, it forms a common sight. Moreover, the discussion about the health and hygiene of the men who are at its steering wheel, has also increased our familiarity with the subject.

What the coffee table book “Horn Please - Trucking in India” does is, that it takes the story forward. This attractive book lavishly sprinkled with aesthetic images of trucks attempts to draw the attention of the corporates, bureaucrats, policy makers and masses to this world. Not taking the documentary mode, the subject is approached through 200 unconventional shots, majority of which are clicked by international photographers — Sephi Bergerson, Zackari Canepari, Claude Barutel and Thomas Pickard. “We felt the need to tell the story. Trucks are something that we see yet we don’t see. We wanted to capture the problems of truck drivers, the fun and festivities in their lives, kitschy art and Bollywood’s influence on trucks,” says Divya Jain, who has authored the book with her father-in-law Pawan Jain, Chairman and Managing Director of Safexpress, a logistics company. The book, an initiative under the CSR activity of the company is being distributed by Om Books International.

Sephi selected the photographers who then went to Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan, Bengal and Kerala to shoot. The work that emerged was a massive collection of 7,500 photos out of which 250 images made it to the book. The omnipresent truck becomes a metaphor for a truck driver’s life, which is explored via portraits, on roadside dhabas, life inside the truck, the trucks in activity and on their way. The photographers do a remarkable job of capturing their life in a holistic manner. Though full of struggle, the pictures portray hope and optimism. “Yes the brief was to go beyond the convention and paint a picture of happiness and hope. I always believe that colour and positivity attracts people. There are difficulties in their lives and we show that too. There are subtle photographs of harassment, corruption and indirect images related to HIV problems but overall there is colour and happiness in their lives and the book is an extension of that,” says Sephi Bergerson, an international photographer based in India since 2002. In the past he has done a book on street food of India and is now working on a book on Indian weddings due to be out soon.

In an internal survey done by the company, it was found that AIDS awareness among the drivers has increased but still the sector requires more intervention. “About 85 per cent of drivers, as we found in our internal survey, are aware of AIDS but a lot is still lacking in terms of sanitation and hygiene. The objective is to make people realize the complexities involved in transportation. In a common man, this project seeks to change his or her perception about a truck driver and look at him with more respect. The trucking industry is really looked down upon but governmental intervention can change a lot. Better working conditions, job security, post-retirement are some serious issues that have to be dealt with. We need more examples like Raj Singh, who started off as a truck driver but today owns a fleet of 60 trucks,” says Divya, Founder, Safeducate, an avenue for developing skills among supply chain professionals.