Pakistani poetry truck, making the rounds…

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In America, we have National Poetry Month and a few scattered lines on subways and the buses. But we’re not a patch on Pakistan.

One of the lesser known sides of Pakistani life: the chaotic public transport blossoms in color with buses, trucks, rickshaws and taxi cabs that are decked out in bright paint and elaborate designs — and the best part for many is the poetry.

PRI’s Fahad Desmukh reports:

“This is in a very real sense a public conversation which is not in books, which is not in the type of middle class milieus – it’s on the street,” said Manan Ahmed, professor of Islam at the Free University of Berlin.

“The reason these things exist on public transportation is because these conversations are existing in places where the folks driving these vehicles hang out.”

Of course, the drivers aren’t writing these verses in a vacuum. Poetry plays a very prominent role in popular culture here – not just as a form of art, but also as a part of everyday conversation. People use couplets to explain a situation, something like the way proverbs are used. But for the owners of public transport vehicles, it’s also about defining your public identity.

Photos: Fahad Desmukh

Like the snippets that appear on U.S. billboards in April, the Pakistani poems are short — usually just a couplet, two lines with the same meter.

The PRI site translates a couple examples. Here’s one:

“Oh nightingale, why do you cry? Are you without a flower?
I should be the one to cry, for I have no peace in my life.”

Well, as they say, poetry is what gets lost in translation…


2 Responses to “Pakistani poetry truck, making the rounds…”

  1. Pakistani poetry truck, making the rounds… campus university Says:

    […] post: Pakistani poetry truck, making the rounds… By admin | category: Free University of BERLIN | tags: ameinfo, berlin, biggest-online, […]

  2. LJCohen Says:

    Oh, this is beautiful! Thank you for posting it. I wish we could have more public art and poetry here, instead of advert billboards on every open surface. Sigh.

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