Wednesday 5 March 2014

Ubiquitous India: No 4 - Truck Hoppers

This blog is dedicated to the P-Js of Powai.

All over India, on every road, from the busiest expressways to the narrowest country lane - there are people hitching rides or being transported on the back of commercial vehicles.  They are lone riders, family groups, gangs of workers - or travelling companions who are complete strangers to each other. I call them 'truck hoppers'.

Chance for a catch-up and perhaps even a debate?
Sometimes these hitchers stand without the ability to sit; others make seating out of their cargo - whether it be rice sacks, rubbish or an actual chair (as below). Often you will these impromptu passengers fast asleep amongst a load of detritus. Never is there a seatbelt or a strap, and never do they feel the need to close the doors (if there are any) - better to feel the wind in your hair.

Seating provided!
I love the way that cargo transport doubles up as a commuter transport.  I also love the way that groups of men laugh and play about in the backs of trucks. The most amusing aspect, are those who are willing to squeeze themselves into any available space, just to get where they want to go (or have to go).

Mmmm...looks really comfortable!

Of course, the humour masks something more sinister.  People travelling by this method are generally taking their lives into their own hands (as is so often typical in India's Health & Safety free zone). I hate to think what would happen if any of these vehicles had to brake suddenly, or if one was involved with a crash. I recently heard a terribly sad story from a friend: One morning, upon hearing a loud crash outside, my friend's husband went to investigate.  He saw a van carrying marble slabs on the road outside their apartment block.  He asked someone what was going on. It transpired that the van had just picked up two workers from the next door building and these men had climbed into the back of the van. As soon as it had accelerated away, the two huge marble slabs (which had not been strapped on) - fell sideways on top of the two men, killing one and injuring the other.  My poor friend's husband saw the bodies poking out from under the marble. What a waste of a life because of such a negligent disregard for safety.  So even though I approach this subject in rather a tongue-in-cheek kind of way - I actually find these sightings quite stressful.

In my two years in India, I have recorded these shotgun passengers in their hundreds.  Here is a small selection for your delectation (some photographs are fuzzy as I have shot them through a car window):

Govindas on Human Pyramid day - traverse the city by truck

Next few photos - Gods are not precluded from travelling by truck!

This truck carries a buffet...and a chef
This little cow went to market....

Look closely....very closely!

Notice the guy asleep with his head on the other guy's lap?

Do not step over the threshold!

Is he holding the door to stop it falling off or to stop himself falling out?

The Milkman

Children welcome
Looks like poor legroom for these guys.....

I dread to think what these guys are actually sitting on.

Heads peeping out - looks like they are playing a game of cards.

Precariously perched on boxes on top of this drinks truck.

An attempt at holding on....

This woman looks like she is preparing tonight's dinner in the back of this truck!


  1. Hi Jules, Very interesting pictures and scary too! We have somethings a variation on the theme here which is known as 'slugging' or car pooling and which is beneficial to the driver as well as the passengers. Much safer, however.

    1. Thanks for visiting. Haha yes I don't think car pooling as we know it could possibly compare with these guys! I've seen some truly terrifying situations!



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