In the neon world of car stickers, GTB Nagar shines bright. You wouldn’t know it from the size of the little stores at Sion Koliwada. They barely fit a seat, desk and a printer.
But check out the walls. Decals of every sticker design you’ve ever seen on a Mumbai vehicle (and many you hope to never see) cover the display surface. While bikers in the West decorate their vehicles with skulls, flames or ‘Baby On Board’ signs, Mumbai does it with film logos, religious symbols, random figures, slogans and crazy shapes – an unusual shorthand for our aspirations.
“The upper classes don’t decorate their cars at all – at the most, they’ll get those strange car tattoos with knives or pups,” says Amjad Ali Qureshi, who owns Sai Art. “The middle class loves stickers, especially those who drive two-wheelers or want to cover bumps and scratches on a second-hand car.”
Fast-moving designs at Qureshi’s store include Bob Marley (“I don’t know this charsi, but young boys love him”), the Transformers logo, and Calvin (from Calvin And Hobbes) relieving himself into the fuel tank. “I’ve sold lots of Harley Davidson logos,” Qureshi says. “Never to a Harley Davidson owner.”
Irshad Ali’s Nisar Arts, down the road, also has American bald eagles, Arabic numbers, Dubai license plates and date palms. There are perennial favourites: Shivaji, Sai Baba and Salman Khan.
(Rachel Lopez/HT photo)
Irshad Ali’s Nisar Arts, down the road, also has American bald eagles, Arabic numbers, Dubai license plates and date palms. “It’s to show off that they have family in America or the Gulf,” says Ali.
There are perennial favourites: Shivaji, Sai Baba and Salman Khan. First-time bikers almost always get typographical art honouring their mothers. Taxi drivers emblazon Gavilgad, Ajinkyatara, or Bhagwangad on their rear windows, referring to their hometown’s forts.
Since 2014, it has become fashionable to mark your car with your political affiliations. “Shiv Sena stickers beat every other party’s design,” says Qureshi. Ali’s store also has big full-colour, photo stickers – great for gods, temples and, of course, Salman Khan. “They cost more, but Mumbai loves decoration, they’ll soon get popular,” Ali says.