An instantly iconic symbol of India is the teeming chaos that permeates every facet of life in this nation of over a billion souls. But few outsiders pause to think about how this vast subcontinent is kept supplied amid this chaos.
Enter Rajat Ubhaykar, a journalist who set out to chronicle what he considers to be the backbone that supports India: its truckers. Over the cause of under 300 pages, he escorts the reader through multiple unplanned hitchhikes around the country from the commercial heart of Mumbai to the insurgent infested hills of Manipur and the shores of Kanyakumari.
“But it is only when I fill in ‘truck’ as my mode of transportation in the hotel ledger at Udaipur does the utter ludicrousness of my endeavour truly hit home”Truck de India!
Along the way, he meets a myriad of characters who are mostly amused at this outsider’s curiosity about the trucking industry. For instance, we meet Jora Singh, an addict of bhukki (dried poppy pods) who in turn introduces the author to legendary truck builder Mewa Singh in the dusty city of Sirhind. There we get an insight to the intricacies of assembling the metal beasts and painting them in arresting colours and designs.
Truckers have longed been maligned as ill-mannered thugs and drunks who spread HIV across India, but Rajat also digs out their stories of constant struggles with harsh bosses and corrupt bureaucracies looking to squeeze their cut with bribes, taxes and fines.
“I can’t help but feel that the substantive role of the Indian state in its micro-economy seems to revolve around creating problems for some, so others can be employed in solving them.”Truck de India!
There is hope too though. Younger, digitally savvy truckers are more aware of their rights and aspire to achieve bigger dreams than slaving away behind the wheel. The industry itself is evolving, with safer, comfortable trucks and better labour conditions. But as the old and new worlds collide, this book will leave the reader wondering if they really do know India and all its hidden complexities.
Yogi’s Verdict: ★★★★★