Bringing together a psychedelic mash-up of motifs from the trucks of Peshawar, Karachi and Rawalpindi, celebrated truck art artist Haider Ali and his team have painstakingly recreated the "canvas on wheels" at a marquee in Kolkatta in a unique cultural bonding otherwise warring neighbours.

A walk through the narrow alley of Nabin Pally in Hatibagan in north Kolkata, that exudes an old world charm, brings one to a canopied pandal ensconced between the residences. A peek inside the passage-like metal arrangement reveals a stunning array of roses, partridges and geometrical patterns in a riot of colours that transports one to the vibrant world of Pakistan's truck art.

Dubbed as "moving art", the genre is used to deck up trucks and other moving vehicles in a competitive display of ownership and status in the country.

For Gopal Poddar, a veteran consultant for Durga Puja themes and designs, who first thought of introducing truck art as a marquee theme this year at the Nabin Pally, given the ongoing strife between the two nations, a link a la art would foster unity and peace.

"Hopefully when Indians see the decorations, they will be inspired to think differently about Pakistan. They will take it as a country equally in love with art and culture, as we are," Poddar said adding that he scouted for Ali and his co-workers on the internet.

The layout of the pandal, designed by Ali, Mohammed Iqbal and Mumtaz Ahmed, resembles the interior of a truck complete with a replica of the driver's cabin and the cargo hold.

Eight metal panels, each divided into around 20 square blocks, border the glittering inner sanctum which mimics the luxurious interiors of the driver's cabin, with a typical jutting steel, paneled head.

"The cabin will be decked up in colourful metal cut-outs, mirrors and stickers. It will house the devi (goddess) and will dazzle all," Ali explained.

Covering each block, images from Pakistan's trucks, including flashes of snow-capped mountains, sunsets, flowers and birds, held together by artistic borders in contrasting colours and backgrounds, form a vibrant kaleidoscope. Fluorescent, magenta, orange and aquamarine dominate the colour palette.

Fancied by transport companies and individual owners in Pakistan as trappings of success, each bespoke vehicle is a one-of-a-kind creation. The more ostentatious and attractive a truck is, the more affluent is its owner.

"Partridges and eagles are really popular and the birds are shown in various phases of movements. The motifs vary from region to region. It's up to the owner to decide what to display on their prized possessions," said Iqbal. The art has evolved to include accessories like glitters, stickers and metal embellishments to revamp the look of trucks.

"Among Indian elements, Agra's Taj Mahal and the Royal Bengal tiger in action are a rage. Even though traditionally animals are not sketched," Ahmed revealed as he gracefully rendered a saffron border to a snow-capped mountain scene, another in-vogue composition.

Having exhibited in and taught enthusiasts from the US, Britain, Canada, Turkey and India, the artists intrigued by the overwhelming response are gearing up to peg the craft as a regular art form on the same lines as folk art of India and other nations.


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