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The grandeur of an Ambassador

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Ravi Chander
In the early 1990s, our neighbour Mr Raj, who lived with his family in a company-provided accommodation in Bengaluru, put up his car – a handsome-looking ambassador – for sale. Bought at a company auction for a jaw-dropping Rs.20,000, it was their first car and had been a tried and trusted family companion for over a decade.
But, though the family used the car regularly, it did not appear to have run the extra mile to warrant disposal. Nevertheless, the owner had decided to replace it with a new set of wheels. The original made in India car, the iconic Hindustan Ambassador, was considered a status symbol in the middle of the last century. Flaunted by government ministers and the well-heeled, the Amby earned the moniker, ‘the king of Indian roads’.
Word got around that the car was up for sale, and soon, many prospective buyers came knocking at the seller’s door. Finally, one gentleman who displayed extraordinary interest in the car had a curious request. He implored the owner to part with the heavy-duty waterproof cover accompanying the vehicle. He had fallen in love with the car and its hood – both were oyster blue and complemented each other well – so much that he was desperate to possess it but sought some time to raise the money.
Since the Amby had excellent resale value because of the huge boot space and luxurious comfort they provided for a medium-sized family, the seller kept the vehicle’s selling price at the cost price!
Finally, Raj agreed to the deal but on the condition that the buyer stuck to the transaction deadline. A week passed, and then alas, one morning, the family discovered that the car hood had mysteriously disappeared! Perhaps, a petty thief had made away with it the previous night when the rains pelted down.
Days passed, and Raj wondered how he could keep up his promise to the buyer. Though he was not to blame, the thought of losing the hood bothered him. Meanwhile, the burglar’s antics grew bolder, and he began stealing trivial things such as buckets, mugs, pots and pans from neighbouring houses. The embittered residents found the series of burglaries hard to stomach, and soon enough, trooped to the police station to complain.
After a few days, there was a knock on Raj’s door. A cop stood at the doorway with a shabbily-clad lad in tow. The policemen had stumbled upon the miscreant when the latter was busy indulging in his misdemeanours and caught him red-handed in the act. The burglar spilt the beans on interrogation and agreed to show the cops the places he had robbed.
Having retrieved the stolen canopy, Raj couldn’t conceal his glee. He was grateful to the cop and tipped him off generously but gave the miscreant a piece of his mind while urging him to give up his errant ways and reform himself.
Thus, the car hood and its companion, the Amby, were united once again. Apprehending the burglar also led to retrieving the other stolen goods. It was also a happy ending for Raj, as he could keep intact his promise to the car’s buyer of parting with the hood. Later, a spanking new car replaced the vintage Amby, but the family still recalls the thrill of riding in their first car.
(The author is a former banker who has taken to writing as a pastime. He contributes to various publications including ‘Kashmir Vision’)

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