The suspension of production of Ambassador cars in May from HM’s Uttarpara plant near Kolkata triggered many a nostalgic reaction and understandably so, as the brand was once the apotheosis of Indian car making.
The year was 1992. I was promoted as a senior engineer in my company and thus eligible to draw an attractive car allowance to claim which a car, no matter it ran or not, and an RC book reflecting my name as the owner were the requisites.
I approached a broker with a miserly budget. He mused and said, “Well. Let me check with Krishnan. He had a beauty.” When we managed to get through Krishnan’s den, a blue Ambassador gleamed, parked in a shed inside a compound and guarded like a NASA shuttle. A fearsome-looking Krishnan came out of the house twirling his dark moustache.
The broker after some eerie discussions broke the news stealthily. “Is 18K okay for you? Krishnan is a big moneylender and needs money urgently. That’s why, he offers it at a throwaway price.” In a flash, I closed the deal, rather steal. The broker delivered the car in my home and vanished.
Soon, many startling facts came to light of the car and its three decades of troubled legacy. But such stunning revelations did not bother me as I faced a bigger crisis. Name transfer became impossible as Krishnan had maintained the car in the previous owner’s name and whose assent and signature were needed to transfer the car in my name.
I made numerous visits to Krishnan’s house to resolve the issue but I could never again spot him. Each time, only his wife appeared and lied that her husband had just then gone out. I smelt something sinister.
Another broker took pity on me and located the erstwhile owner of the car who undid the jigsaw puzzle. “Krishnan bought my car and did not pay me the promised sum. That’s why, I refused to sign papers for name transfer. Let me not think of that money shark again. I’ll help you out.” Finally, the name transfer was through and I heaved a massive sigh of relief.
Within a week, my sister delivered a baby girl in a local hospital and the capacious car, despite its age and creaking parts, came in handy to ferry not only my sister in labour but also scores of family members to and from the hospital.
“Your car has a very lucky touch indeed. Each delivery is a great ordeal. But your car made mine so pleasant. Truly, it’s an ambassador of our family. It’s time now to transfer a lovely name from our heart to the newborn child,” quipped my sister poetically upon which I broke down, unable to control my emotions, recalling my own ordeal with the delivery and name transfer of the Ambassador car.
“He is so much attached to his sister,” my mom was heard interpreting my tears to others.