77. GOD’S OWN COUNTRY – 5. The Passenger Bus Art.

If you are travelling by road in Kerala, especially in the northern and the central parts, you will find a striking art form. The painted buses. The Goad’s Own Country has a reputation for art of various kinds – spanning from the interpretation of the Epics to the War dances. Perhaps this form of art shall be the one for the future chroniclers of history to record. I am just wondering if I could be the avant garde of these chroniclers and record for the sake of posterity the extraordinarily genre of art that has spawned here. Extraordinary because it is moving and can be accessed by all and sundry without a charge.


 What is more surprising about this phenomenon is the fact that it is confined only to the northern and the central parts of Kerala and totally absent in Southern part of Goad’s primary domain. Perhaps this has something to do with the ownership pattern in these districts. Incidentally it is surprising that the people living in this part of the world like their own small worlds. Before the Abominable White Man landed on the coast of India in search of spices, Goad’s Own Country was ruled by 104 Kings or king-types. I need to calculate the average territory for each of them. This is precisely what led to the colonization of India by the Europeans in the initial stages. Anyway this is not the subject of the present post. Here are some samples of the plastic art.


The private tourist buses owned by the Thambis in neighbouring Tamil Nadu display a similar tendency but cannot match Annas’ ingenuity. We will add some of them at the end of the post but right now let us look at the topics on display in Kerala.

Here if you getting married they hang the pictures of the bride and bridegroom in the front to prevent any claims to the bride  by the usurpers. The bus then moves with the marriage party without an hindrance.


If you analyse the topics which are depicted on the sides of these buses, the BIRDS (known as ‘berds’ in this part of the world) take the lion’s share. You have all types and varieties except those found in Kerala.

The honourable exception was the National Bird of the country  which did appear at one or two places but did not look very convincing.It appeared to be imported from China.



There are the others like pigeons as well.


I was expecting a lot of fishes to appear in this art. Unfortunately there were none except a few inedible varieites that go into the glass tanks, not into the stomach.

The mammals are not  many but look good.

Here is a butterfly:


And this extraordinary bon homie among the hunter and the hunted.I would definitely like to travel by this bus.


Some fruits acompanied by the Penguins entice the passengers to travel by the bus.They are convincing coolants.


The fearsome prehistoric animals are very impressionable. The younger crowd would like to travel by these buses irrespective of their destination.


The characters from the world of fiction also have the same appeal.



The cartoon characters are there, of course.

Flowers- the number is below expectations:


The vague kind of things – neither here nor there.

The Woman. Surprisingly absent from this form of art except in a stay and vague incidence of Chinese intrusion:


Some very vague kind of ‘modern’ art.

On the picture that follows I have an observation to record.

I was on the roadside whilst my wife was at the beautician. That will give you some idea of the time I was there. There was a lady waiting for the bus. She did not board until a bus with colours matching with her dress came along.


Text and Pictures: suryakiran.naik@gmail.com