KARACHI: Two decades ago, an abandoned old bus that stood on top of a mound of scrap was home to Rozina Naz and her two children. Today, she is an accomplished artist, known as Ustad Rozi Khan, who paints buses and trucks in the very same neighborhood on the outskirts of Karachi.
Newly widowed and homeless 19 years ago, Naz had moved her family into the old bus, taking up odd jobs to feed herself and her children. But it was when she began visiting a painter’s shop years later, that she realized buses like her home could be her canvas.
“When my husband died, I had no one by my side and was all alone. I spotted a bus that stood on a heap of scrap and started living there with my two children,” she told Arab News at the Mawach Goth bus stand on Saturday.
Naz kept up with different odd jobs and the routine continued well after she was able to move out of the bus into a real home.
“I didn’t give up,” she said. “I was thinking, this time will pass too. I didn’t want to spread my hands in front of anyone.”
Her life changed when she began visiting a painter’s shop to unwind and read newspapers after a hard day’s work.
“The owner of the shop had two or three students,” she said. “When they left for home, he would put their wages in their hands.”
“I thought, this is a good way to earn a living.”
Naz was good at drawing in school and she put these skills to work painting trucks, a popular form of art decoration native to South Asia which features elaborate florals, calligraphy, landscapes and poetry painted on large cargo trucks in vivid colors.
The trucks, which colorfully dot inter-city highways, are painted almost exclusively by men in Pakistan.
“Many people would say: ‘You’re a woman and this line of work is not meant for you,’” she said.
“But I told them, it’s just another form of work and it has nothing to do with my gender.”
“If someone makes these statements, I don’t pay attention and continue to do my work,” she said. “I only think of my children.”
Now, armed with her paint buckets, Naz goes about her day on a motorcycle she bought on installments.
“My life became colorful when I started painting,” Naz said. “I fell in love with colors.”
“It’s been 19 years since I started using this brush. I still work in this small neighborhood, but I can sketch any design,” she continued proudly.
“I can paint anything.”