Truck Trail

Incredible South

On the Salem-Tirupati-Vijayawada route, drivers dream of cricket, a chance in a movie and even a career in chartered accountancy while driving through lonely roads, speeding to families

Photographs by RA Chandroo

M Nallaswamy looks at his mother fondly as she brings the TVS 50 moped to life. At 67, Poongudi uses it to carry milk to be delivered to households each morning. She does this since her son is out 20 days a month driving a truck.

In a moment of candour, Nallaswamy, who owns four trucks, all bought on loans, says the job gets difficult as one gets older. “I have no ailments but I can feel the age set in,” says the 47-year-old. The family’s home perches on 15 acres in Athipalayam in Tamil Nadu’s Namakkal district, where we are seated. Cows and goats are placed in a separate enclosure. “It was fun to move around earlier but being out for 20 days now is difficult.”

The trucking business brings him Rs.30,000 after all expenses are met (fuel, toll and payments to drivers being the primary costs), and that is barely enough for bread and butter. Agricultural produce, which includes peanuts and corn, and the milk, is another Rs.10,000, albeit with some difficulty. “In that sense, driving the truck is necessary. Maybe, I should have learnt something else; it’s a little late now,” he says.

There is no sense of regret in the voice, but more a pride of having seen a lot of India, and the ability to speak Hindi. “Mera Hindi bahut accha hai. Koi problem nahin,” says the portly man. The same pride also shows on his face when it comes to cooking tomato rice, a dish he seems to have mastered during his days-long trips. “I cook it even better than my wife,” he says, as the better half looks on smilingly.

Omalur to Krishnagiri