A splash of indigenous vehicle art for your four-wheelers
By: Tehmina Qureshi
KARACHI: In the heart of Garden town is a street which is more colourful than the rest with its colours cutting through the blanket of shabby greyness of the area. The shops here also sell mudguards and wheel caps but they are colourful and pink — something you would hang in your sitting room, not put on your vehicle.
Welcome to Murad Khan Road — the place where indigenous Pakistani vehicle art comes to life.
There is something to satisfy the whims of every driver here — from flower motifs to political parties’ flags, images of gun-bearing elderly women and Mashallah and Inshallah. You name it, you will find it.
In one of the shops in this street, Momin Rehman stands hunched over the counter of his shop peeling off stenciled stickers made of reflective sheet using a tool which is something between a needle and a tweezer.
He is making stickers for vehicles, also called chamak patti or fancy patti depending on the design and length of the stickers which range from size of a penny to long thin or broad strips.
Over the time truck art has also absorbed modern methods for its advantage. Oil and acrylic paints for buses and backsides of auto-rickshaws have been replaced by adhesive reflective sheets which are cut with great precision using computer-guided blades.
Though truck painting lives on too but such artistes are usually hard to find.
The thinner fancy patti is sold for between Rs12 and Rs15 per piece in packets of a dozen.
Hanging on the left side of his shop are big colorful wheel caps decorated with a floral pattern. They come in a set of four and cost around Rs1,100. “I have been working on them for about three days now in between attending to customers,” says Rehman. “They will take about a day’s more work before they are completed.”
Smaller metallic ones with only their centres decorated with chamak patti are sold for around Rs850 per set of four.
Most of this stuff is made by families living in Orangi and New Karachi. Ameeruddin, a wholesaler of chammak patti, tells that it takes three men a day to make a dozen strips of fancy patti which has one base colour with a couple of more designs with contrasting colours.
Meanwhile, decorating a bus begins at about Rs20,000 and usually goes up to Rs50,000, says Mohammad Yaseen Shafi. “Every bus or vehicle is customized to the owner’s whims,” he said. “It depends on what they want and how much they want to spend on it.”
His shop also deals with a lot of international customers as well, including the decorators of the Karachi-to-Melbourne Tram (also called the W11 tram) used in the 2006 Common Wealth Games.
Chamak patti decoration is not only restricted for vehicles only. Since the past couple of years local designers have come up with jewellery and stationary items such as file folders and bracelets decorated and themed with fancy and chammak pattis for pretty reasonable prices. Clothes are also being designed on the same theme.
So the next time you pass by Garden, you might want to buy a few strips of fancy patti, if not for your car then may be to spazz up your boring old notebooks!