#Logistics in the time of COVID

The Sounds of Punjabi Supply, Before and Through the Virus

This listicle showcases changing mediatized representations of Punjabi logistical labor, from trucking to transnational logistical relationships, diasporic remittances to COVID-related border closures. #SoLogistical #TruckingLogistics
Davindar Singh
This playlist —  whose format has itself acquired a particularly logistical cast under regimes of media platformization — presents a very minimal selection of changing mediatized representations of Punjabi logistical labor, of global logistics’ effects on Punjabi social relations, and of places where COVID has affected both mediatization and supply.

1. Chakde Fatte Dabde Killi: Note Saregama’s framing of the song’s “vintage” status. In this period of Punjabi pop, domestic truckers are often portrayed as impoverished, illiterate, libidinal reprobates. See Manuel (1993) for a description of the early widely distributed recordings of this genre.

2. Jatt Da Truck: Slightly nostalgic take on this venerable format.

3. Tochan: The villain nonpareil of contemporary Punjab pop, bringing tractors — commonly jury-rigged for local commercial transport, speaking to the historical challenges of Indian heavy machinery acquisition stemming from international trade relations — into a logistics park full of shipping containers. The lyrics compare interpersonal and logistical pragmatics.

4. Jatt: This recent musical depiction of rising numbers of North Indian agricultural suicides bemoans the exorbitant profits taken by agricultural financers and logistics brokers. Among others, see Aarti Sethi’s 2017 Columbia University dissertation and a spate of recent articles in the Economic and Political Weekly for critical examination of public discourse around this phenomenon. Warning: graphic content, including suicide.

5. Yaran Da Truck: One of the many songs about Punjab’s major transportation artery, which predates the Mughals, was the base for British logistical and communicative expansion (including early telegraph construction), and is today valorized in song from a variety of different social positions. Punjab’s recent attempts to court transnational investment and further integrate production into global supply chains through SEZ expansions — on both sides of the Indo-Pak border — dramatically reshape this route. More such songs can be found here, here and here.

6. Pakke Truckan Wale: One of the many songs about the Punjabi trucking diaspora, upon whose remittances many in the province currently depend.  

7. Roadways: A smaller subgenre of songs are about bus transport — generally romantic, but one centers the abuse a conductor suffers from wealthy urban college students. Most of the lyrics reference a subcontinental urban-rural division that was fundamental to colonial governance but further exacerbated under postcolonial developmental policies shaped by the exigencies of transnational logistical relationships, and which division in discourse belies both spaces’ mutual imbrication.

8. Visa: The framing device for this video is a radio station that crosses over the Can-Am border, and which mediates many Punjabi truckers’ public communications. This has only increased in social import after COVID border closures.

9. Hathyaar Rakho: Excerpts of speeches from prominent Punjabi militant separatist Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, whose killing at the hands of the Indian Army desecrated Sikhism’s holiest site, which led to Indira Gandhi’s assassination and a subsequent anti-Sikh genocide. In the wake of recent outcry against the BJP for its attempted agricultural deregulation, such excerpts circulate widely on Punjabi social media (especially on Whatsapp) with newly-added musical backgrounds.

10. Baba Modi Ko To Mookyian Naal Kootega Jake: Common anti-BJP slogan, depicted on Punjabi and Punjabi-American trucks in protests, describing an elderly Punjabi — presumably a farmer — traveling to sock Modi in the kisser.

11. Babbu Maan in Support of Punjab Corona Virus: Bemoans coronavirus-compelled tensions between diasporic and South Asian Punjabis, and mentions the local economic importance of diasporic remittances -- many of which, again, come from laborers in the logistics sector.

Please see the accompanying post for relevant political and historical context.
Listicle by Davindar Singh