She was going to go away, after a long stint. She had been with us in rain and shine, when we wanted to take a long ride or just visit a friend’s place. She had made space for even the largest of all families only to see that we enjoyed ourselves even as she slogged on rugged roads and drove in bad weather. And she never complained. Maybe, a bruise here and there but she never ever raised a situation wherein we would wish she wasn’t there.

Ever since I had known about four wheelers I had known her. No other four wheeler would do. With Papa working in Hindustan Motors, it seemed only natural for him and subsequently for the rest of the family to feel comfortable only in the warm embrace of an Ambassador. She was the Captain of the Ship, she was the favourite Maasi of mine, she was that ever loving cheerful Maama of mine, she was part of the family, part of us…

Now, why would I want to dip into the quiet pool of nostalgia and remember her as if she was gone or was going away? Well. She is going to go – Shortly. After a long journey of ‘God Only Knows’ how many years, her time has come to leave hearth and home. She has been sick, lying dormant for the past few months watching sadly as we used a smaller vehicle for matter of convenience. Every other day, when we passed her by and stepped into the currently used vehicle I could sense the sadness that only a royal Ambassador can feel on being left alone and unused. After all, she belonged to the rough and tough category of four wheelers, ever willing to run in any season for any reason.

Now, my father, ageing himself and the owner of the Ambassador wants to put memories of her to rest. Never one to express his emotions, I know it hurt him bad when an ex-colleague of his dropped in to comment, “Better get rid of it or else you would have to pay someone to take it away.” For most people a car maybe ‘it’ but for me she certainly was no non living entity. She was a living loving family member! Today, an interested buyer came home. She is still there, wrapped in the car cover to protect her from heat, cold and dust waiting for her time to come.

For some it may seem, how could an inanimate thing like a car evoke such strong emotions in a human? Well, if you have driven in an Ambassador for long/ have owned one, you would know. I still remember the times when we would be returning home after a dinner at a friend’s place and Papa would place me on his lap and while he maneuvered the brake, accelerator and clutch (since my feet didn’t reach there!), his little darling daughter would handle the steering wheel while my mother wondered what the hell Papa was doing. How I felt then, only I know. The feeling of being in charge, of being trusted enough to handle the wheels that came (at least to me) while I sat in the driver’s seat in an Ambassador, only I know. No other car has made me feel the same to date.  I learnt driving a four wheeler in this very Ambassador. I was sanely advised (God bless that person) that if I could drive an Ambassador I could drive any car in the world. And how true it turned out to be. Palakkad town in Kerala is witness to my training rides. Why! Even my school children would see the car anywhere in the town and identify it as Shail Madam’s car! In the heavy downpours that Palakkad is known to have in the rainy months, it was this very Ambassador that sheltered me and my family. How many joy rides I had then!

Mummy used to tell me (I have seen the black and white photographs too) of a pretty pregnant Mummy going for a Southern tour with Papa in the Ambassador. I suppose I could sense the feel even when I was within the confines of the womb! Much later, the Ambassador would take me around when I reported for my television work. The Ambassador never complained about the odd times. Instead, I could feel her unconditional love even as she took care that I reached home safe and sound every day.

Some years back when the issue of letting her go was broached, my son much younger then, refused to let go even though his association with her was much lesser than mine. Sigh! What strong emotions an Ambassador can evoke even in a little child and that too in today’s world of foreign cars! Now that my son is a little older he doesn’t brood about this particular topic often although I could see that wee bit of sadness creep into his eyes when I mentioned that the Ambassador had to go since she had grown  very old and was ailing.

Thank You dear Ambassador for all the lovely memories you have bestowed upon me.

I love you dear Amby! Will always do……

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48 responses »

  1. vimala madon says:

    A famous Indian photographer (anyone remember his name?) compiled an entire portfolio of photographs of the Amnbassador. No other car can make you feel so safe, as if you are inside a fortress. No other car can carry so many passengers so accommodatively. And no other car can weather the bumpy Indian roads in town or remote village.
    The Amby is a piece of Indian history fading slowly into memories of golden halcyon days of our childhood.

  2. Dr SreeKumar says:

    Dear Shail,
    I experienced the same emotions line by line as I read your wonderful tribute to Amby.I,being a proud owner of Amby for the past 12yrs refused to sell it after I purchased a new car recently,, inspite of pressure from the folks outside my home.Amby ( I call him my first son ),he has a life in his metallic and sturdy look,a sense of belonging and a charm which poeple who have never owned an Ambi will understand.
    Sree

    • Dear Dr. Sreekumar,

      Thanks for sharing.

      Nice to know that you identified with the emotions mentioned in my article. Also, nice to know that you still have your Ambassador with you.

      Nothing to beat the Amby!

  3. Irene says:

    Our first car, when we were very young, was an amby too. I still remember its number and ample feel. It was a lovely, cozy feel, but alas was not good at negotiating Bhutan’s mountain roads!

  4. Sonal Shree says:

    Very beautiful piece of writing Shail. Keep coming with more of these. Loved this blog.

  5. prerna says:

    Lovely read Shail. If u haven’t yet sold it off, please let me know…my husband has a fancy for amby and he has been searchign for one…it’s truly royal…

  6. Sandhya says:

    It’s true for everyone. It feels odd for sometime. It means u r going to get a new one!

  7. Bhargavi says:

    Very true, Shail..it is very very emotional, when we see our ‘pet’ out of our house.
    I had the privilege of riding in the Amby during my early years, nothing beats its comfort, isn’t it!

  8. Geetashree Chatterjee says:

    Dear Shail,

    Though small cars are in today but ambassadors were really royal. I have also had he experience of riding in an ambassador for a few years and its comfort level cannot be equated with any other multi utility vehicles of today especially on bumpy, potholed roads.

    A good inaugural nostalgia!

  9. Very well written piece no doubt.
    Emotions in literature have an infinite potential.
    Sweet memories, happy moments, contented life style, literary writing and fantastic expression add to the pleassure many fold.
    Kep it up.

  10. Ashwathy says:

    Very nicely written 🙂 I dont think I’ve ever read a write-up on the Amby the way you’ve written it here…
    And yes nothing beats an amby…. 🙂

  11. sreelata menon says:

    Yes Shail.
    Ambassadors are now what memories are made of-of the days when one learn’t to drive like Beyniaz or like yours of long hardy cross country trips….but when I advanced to the little Maruti in the eighties that joy was something else.

    After the ponderous but faithful ‘amby’ of the past, the dexterity and lightness to the touch of the maruti 800 beckoned me to an equally enjoyable future which is also in turn now sadly giving way to fancier and newer ones.

    So I join you in saluting our ambassadors who started us on our future! RIP

  12. Beyniaz says:

    Lovely. I also learnt to drive on an ambassador and as a result can drive anything else in the world…from tractors and jeeps to Mercedes. Loved this blog.

  13. Shail, my father owned an old Austin (I think it was a 1961 model) that took our large family of 8 siblings, with my father and mother (my father used to drive, with my mother in front with me and all the 7 children at the back) – till all the children became big and space was a problem. My father used to get transferred often, and we all used to go in that car – my parents remembered that car very much – it was part of the family – as you said – but ultimately old age claimed it.

    I still have my old yezdi bike owing to the pressure of my wife not to sell it. But when my father in law’s Ambassador came for a short stay, it stayed for a long time because of my father in law’s ill health – but it truly gave me very precious memories. I too, feel the pain when the Amby would be sold. I remember a National Geographic docu titled, THE GREAT INDIAN RAILWAYS showing the auctioning of a steam engine – it brought tears to my eyes.

  14. vimala ramu says:

    Excellent write up, Shail. We also have one ‘Amby’ in my sister’s place which her husband just refuses to part with. The best part of it is, the car has been so well looked after that the total mileage it has done is negligible compared to the figures run up by modern owners!
    I remember our old Austen in 1940s which could accommodate and accommodate…. unlike the restricted number in modern ones with seat belts.

  15. nadi says:

    everything is becoming so sleek nowadays… i miss that cuddly car

  16. Mira Pawar says:

    Ambassador is a real rugged car. My family had the liberty to own one for a while. A family member traded it for a Herald and i thought that was really stupid. I was never worried when the Ambassador was parked on a crowded street because even if someone banged on to it, there would be no trace of any dents. And Shail as you said, it accomodated the entire family. Hope you nurture the memories of your Ambassador for ever.

  17. A.Hari says:

    Superb one Shail. This post shows how a car becomes a family member as it shares many of our happy memories.

  18. Safiyyah says:

    Lovely read, Shail. I have forever wondered what it feels like to have memories, the nostalgic feeling, and hence hardly miss an opportunity to read up on other people’s memories’ write-ups. Regards.

  19. Hi Shail,

    Your write up brought back the childhood memories when a trip in royal Amby was a birthright. Being a darling daughter of an Army Officer’s daughter Ambassador or a staff car was always (well almost!!!) at my beck and call. Even today when I see an Ambassador on Delhi roads I am taken back to the childhood.

  20. Sneha says:

    Very thought-provoking, sensitive and well written Shail. All the best.
    Sneha

  21. Shernaz says:

    Three cheers for the Ambassador! Shail, I too went on a memory trip with you. Only, our car had to be sold not because she was old and sick, but because my husband had a severe heart problem and insisted on driving it against his better judgement. Otherwise it was a car that ran “makkhan jaisi” as it is said in Hindi. Smooth, engine in top condition and great to drive. Sadly, the new owner used her very badly and turned her into scrap material.

    • Dear Shernaz,
      Glad I could make you share my Amby journey through my write-up. There are many firsts in one’s life. And my first car was definitely the Ambassador. And as you rightly say, Makkhan jaisi… Indeed. If only we humans were a bit like that!!

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