When I see these beauties cruise through busy Calcutta streets, I often wonder in amazement at the reason they have survived for so long and still continue to dominate the public transport space in the city. 

When I was young, my grandfather owned an Ambassador car, like almost everyone in Calcutta. I remember sliding into the backseat beside some elder and almost getting drowned in its expanse. I didn’t quite like the other cars as I would be made to sit on somebody’s lap. But with granddad’s car, I could have the window seat all for myself. I still wish they didn’t let her go. But things once held dear by someone often tend to become valueless for those still breathing. 

When I grew up, I understood that the Ambassador is synonymous to space, comfort, and sturdiness. People would call it ‘the most reliable car’, till much later when international car brands began to compete for this space. The smaller Maruti and Fiat cars could never match up to the monstrous grandeur of the good old Ambassador car.

When I wanted to learn to drive and was old enough to start thinking of purchasing my own, my first choice was always the Ambassador. By that time, apart from Calcutta, every other city bore tiny remnants of the ‘Ambassador age’. Smarter, sleeker, swifter cars had managed to woo everyone. They glided smoothly and almost noiselessly. What’s a beast if it doesn’t roar like one! But maybe, I was the only young adult who felt this way. The new cars had fancy machinery and safety features. And were much easier to maintain. At least that’s what I was told. I hardly could see any of these beasts around. Except, of course, when I visited good old Calcutta.

A very many years later, even to this day, when I land in Calcutta, I hire a prepaid Ambassador taxi (as they call it here) to reach home. If I venture out, Baba still hails and stops the ‘yellow’ taxi plying the roads. Our family of four, and sometimes five, happily hops on to the comforts of the car. Why we think not of the app-based luxurious cabs? Well..

I am a creature of yore. I pick up pieces of the years gone by and hold them close to my heart. I hold dear the memories of my life and try to relive every bit of them when stands a chance. In the race to run with the world, I choose consciously to dwell in experiences that warm up the soul, even if it means my taxi reaches my destination long after the ‘celebrations’ have started and I haven’t been a part of the present.

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