Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Ambassador of glitz and glamour

This blog is not fairly in time, for it’s been a good few months since Auto- Expo 2008 that came about in January. I decided to put it down anyway because there are quite a few out there who aren’t aware of the sensation our good old ambassador has created among international hotrod freaks. If one happens to gaze across an Indian road not many of us would take a second look at the ambassador. Not only that we are too accustomed to the looks that had undergone little change since it rolled out of the assembly lines of Hindustan motors in the late 1950s(but for the fitting of Isuzu 1800 cc engine sometime later) but it does not even seem close to winning a road race of luxurious SUVs and smallest-and-most-affordable-car-ever-mades .

But all the same it brings in me a sense of nostalgia looking at India’s first car- an Icon of India’s independence from the British rule. Despite the fact that its entire construction is based on the Morris Oxford series, it indeed was the first ever car to demonstrate the fact that India was capable of independent automobile production. As luck would have it when the oxford series had already demoted a decade after the launch of ambassador, Hindustan Motors still manages to sell about 20,000 ambassadors a year.

This car enjoyed a monopoly till the introduction of Indica that took away the taxi car market from Ambassador. The narrowing price difference between petrol and diesel also eroded the value in investing in an old dated Ambassador. HM never bothered to rationalize the price of the brand. Today an Ambassador costs more than Rs 4, 80,000. At that price one could afford a more luxurious Indigo sedan. HM launched a radically designed Ambassador variant Avigo in 2004 in an attempt to boost the sagging sales. Although the styling was radical, the customer response wasn’t …well… very promising.

Celebrated car designer DC decided to give this car a reincarnation something like Holden’s wild hot rod concept- EFIJY , a remodel of 953 FJ Holden. So retaining the design cues and the fabled spaciousness of the old ambassador he gave it a few futuristic touches, a low slung body, oversized wheels all from the hotrod design manual and there we had the all new AMBIEROD that set the ramps on fire during Autoexpo 2008. Before it could see the faint flicker of recognition in the onlookers’ eyes , it blew their eyeballs off with the style and the exteriors bathed in cherenkov radiation.

Open the hydraulically-actuated gull-wing doors and you are transported into the future. It’s an intelligent car, with enough computing power to rival a supercomputer. Menu-driven LCD screens display not only the entertainment options, but even the driver’s instrumentation. You have movies and internet on demand. Cameras have taken over the function of mirrors. Internet and videoconferencing-enabled flat bed and multi-coloured mood lighting all makes the Ambierod a retro-futuristic car, the looks of which are derived from the American hotrods.

The car that had been looked at as the most economic one of all times has become the most expensive designed cars ever showcased at the Autoexpo with a price tag of US $1 million ( Rs 4 crores). The car that looked like a mirrored version of Hillman minx now looks nothing less of Ferraris and Lamborghinis straight out of a hotrod. The car that raced the bumpy Indian roads with Premier Padminis is now on the ramps with a jaw dropping glamour giving hotrod freaks a thud in the heart and costing limo owners a fortune for its possession. An ambassador of reliability and reparability is now one of style, glitz and glamour. Well I’m mighty proud. Are you??

Saturday, June 7, 2008

A Rendezvous with her smile - A short story

“What went wrong?” Greg asked himself over and again, ploughing his hand through his dark unkempt hair, not realizing that he was the one who kept condemning the answer every time it came up. The dirt of their conversation hung like a halo, this one in front of his face. There were the accounts to be verified, tenders to be quoted, ledger to be checked, but everything lay haywire waiting to be attended. It had never been like this before for the fastidious boss he was. Blame it all on her! She was the disturbance but the most beautiful disturbance he had ever known. And he knew in the heart of hearts he wanted to be disturbed all his life. He stood up, slipped on his tuxedo jacket and left. It was late alright, but better late than never.

Greg Travolta was the only heir to Travolta tea plantations company Ltd. which spanned eleven tea gardens apart from the seven estates it did business with, had found immense success ever since his grandfather put his private blend of tea into production and proposed allied industry businesses. Smart and nifty, Greg had quite a reputation for his adept way of playing the stakes at such a young age and the figures had seen a hike in the annual turnover since he took over the business after his father.

Things were going systematic as he wanted them to be, until that fateful day when he took a diversion in the route he usually goes jogging- a diversion not just in the route. Usually he trots along the path that winds through the estate plantations, the north side of the hill that is. He rarely ventures into the southern side that encloses a valley comfortably nestled between a range of hills but that day a bit jaded with the usual, took to the southern path through his bike and up the woods jogging. On the either side of the so-called path stretched an unbroken line of trees – alpine, pine, oaks and chestnuts – rising and falling in gentle undulating lines as far as the eye could reach, colouring a soft, deep yellow green, the whole effect alluring and strangely at home. Hither and thither were kisses of wildflower beds and the air clean and cool with a delicate floral scent. He could distinctly hear the sound of the small stream gushing by the foot of the hill, rushing past the heart of the valley to meet with the crevice where it disappears.

All of a sudden he stopped short on his path beside a flower bed. Is that just the reflection of the morning sun around her head, or could it be . . . ? No, it couldn't possibly be a halo. On careful scrutiny he found there were no wings sprouting on her shoulders. But she did appear angelic, that mysterious woman who was gathering flowers with deft hands. May be an enchanting ghost, he looked for her foot. It was there, one dainty foot that seemed to fit the glass slipper he didn’t know he was carrying all along. Her radiant beauty seemed to eclipse all of that around. The woman having collected what she wanted started down towards the valley, away from him.

She was like a dream flitting so quickly as a rule, but he decided to be too quick for this enchanting dream. He ran to her and uttered a blunt, “hello miss”. She stopped, staring into the face of the icon Travolta himself, taken by surprise. “Hello” she echoed blankly excited and confused at the same time. He was much younger- looking and striking than what she had imagined.

“Isn’t it a great refreshing place for a morning jog?” Greg remarked
“Indeed it is”
“Have you come for a morning jog too?”
“No, I came to pick up some flowers for my vase. I run a café down the valley.”
And saying so she pointed down to a small cottage that was wedged on the valley overlooking the stream. She was carrying a huge bunch of flowers, but her face looked like the biggest and most alluring one amongst them.
“Nice…. Guess I can drop in sometime for tea”
“Sure, my pleasure”
“Alright then…. I should be kicking off for the day. Bye!”
“Hey there’s something in your eye!!” he exclaimed suddenly
“What is it?!” She rubbed her eyes frantically,
“A twinkle”
And he jogged off wondering what these butterflies where doing in his stomach when there were so many flowers around.

He was at the café the very evening, not that his mind was anywhere else all day. A few cars had already found the tiny road that wound besides the clear running river in the valley and into the small car park of the café .He observed it was something of a cross between a continental restaurant and an old world cafe, and a great stopping off point for coffee or a light snack- a lovely place to sit and gaze out over the rolling trees and hills.

When he checked in, his eyes searched the place but she was nowhere to be found but his eyes caught the huge vase near the entrance brimming with wild flowers. Deciding to have a drink and wait, he walked past turning faces and murmurs to a seat beside the window overlooking the stream. The view was breathtaking. He could almost make out the fishes darting in the stream, too and fro. The café itself had been tastefully built. He observed the insides of the café. Original hardwood floors, and chestnut beams in earth tones gave a gentle, welcoming feel and a sense of timelessness. Bold, densely patterned tapestries looked quite exquisite against the walls that were painted a blend of deep cream. The chairs had vivid emerald green silk on their seats and the table was of green and faded gold. Aromatic candles and a brass vase with little flowers adorned every table. Pulled against a huge window was a lofty cushioned sofa with a table of the same hue of the chairs, most suitable for friends or ladies to chat over the teacups. The curtains were of three layers- deep olive green, soft mulberry, and faded golden gauze- so delicate in texture and colouring that they rendered a fascinating effect when light streamed through it. He went through the menu, a repertoire of tantalizing dishes. The idea was simple: make delicious food with what's local and what's fresh.

“What would you like to have Mr. Travolta?” a familiar voice chimed. He turned around to find her standing, fresh, with a well pressed white shirt, a grey skirt, an olive green apron and a warm smile on. “A coffee, a mushroom sandwich and if possible some of your time” he replied. She beautifully failed in trying to suppress a smile. She informed something to a waiter who was serving food around and returned shortly. They chatted for sometime as the last rays of sunlight dispersed itself in tones of gold and sepia into the café. Then a strange thing happened. The sun was setting behind the hills. He saw another sun setting into the casement of her eyes.

She chattered on cheerfully. He learnt that her name was Kathy and he also learnt that he was bitten by the love bug. He felt that the sound of the stream gushing by seemed to rhyme with every of her words and the trees ruffled as if in response to the giggles that she would punctuate her never-ending sentences with.

Kathy belonged to the small town beside the valley. This cafe restaurant and its glorious location had been the realization of her life’s ambition. When her mother passed away she sold their rather huge house and started the café. She’d seen to each and every aspect of the café – the design, location and the food to be served. She had carefully collected the best of dishes, tested and modified to provide what was the best. Naturally success shone on the cafe restaurant enterprise as easily as the sunlight from the valley streamed though it. The small town people loved it for it served healthy, delicious food at reasonable rates with an enchanting view of the valley. There was also Kathy’s bubbly charm. She would freely chat with everyone and make them feel at home. Now and then Kathy would try her hand at a different dish and that would instantly create a sensation among the people there.

Greg saw more and more sunsets in Kathy’s eyes after that day. She liked his air of careless cheerfulness and grew fond of him. The bug had not spared her either. They continued on with what seemed like a perfect relationship until that tumultuous conversation they had. She felt the slow, creeping blight of a rich guy’s pride that distorted and soiled all that he was when he remarked about her shutting down the café after their marriage. She grew furious about him not understanding how much she loved the café. He was irritated about her not being practical and felt it should be plainly obvious to her that a Travolta cannot go about serving tea and coffee around and that it was beneath them. When he voiced it all out, they went into such a brawl that they had decided to call it quits.They vowed never to fall victim to the illusion that gluing together the broken pieces will recreate perfection in what has once been seriously flawed.

Greg went into the café as his heart hammered against his ribs. She was there sitting behind the counter, reviewing bills. He sat in his usual place beside the stream but she dint seem to notice. He went near the counter, pulled a stool and sat beside her.
“What would you like to have, Sir?” she asked sharply.
“And till last week I had a name”
“I’m sure you still do. What do you want?”
“Some attention”
“You had it, more than your share”
“But I want it for all my life”
“I just run a café. I’m no good at house keeping. You have the money you can have as many nannies as you want.”
“I’m sorry for the things I told you the other day. What you do is a noble act. You serve people, something ordinary people like me can never do”
“Words come easy to you, don’t they?”
“I wish they had. I wish they had”

He stood up, took her by hand and hauled her to the seat by the stream and made her sit down. Then he went behind the counter and wore her dough- smeared apron upon his crisp tuxedo, took a tray of coffee and walked past a shocked group of diners. Humbly he served her coffee. People around cheered and clapped but his ears were deaf to all sounds but his thudding heart. Then he looked up at her face. A smile started like a ripple at the corners of her mouth and spread across her face- a smile he knew he could live with for a thousand years and more.

Monday, June 2, 2008

My first short story.


I ran. I was trying to run as fast as my legs could carry me. Past the buildings, past the market, past everything that was alien to my inner turmoil. I ran, wanting to run into the world of my yesterdays.

I ran, as the thunder re-sounded my steps. Dark clouds strode like sentinels in black across the length of the skies, firing raindrops like bullets on my face. The wet roads conspiring with the rains, tried to skid me. But nothing was going to stop me that day because I had to reach for a place; I had to reach for my angel. For that I had to reach for the bench- that wooden bench in the park.

I jumped over the wooden fence and headed for the park . My knees bumped into a lamp post that was illuminating the rain like a string of serial bulbs. But I had no time to feel the pain. I kept running

I ran around the corner of the lane and stepped on a puddle of water. I lost my balance but I had no time for falling then. So I dint fall. I kept running
As the project manager of a large firm, I had always been a man laden with work and professional responsibilities. For all the work there was and all the projects to be completed, I had little time to spare for Sandy-my seven year old daughter. Ever since Mythili left me, Sandy had become the world of my existence and I loved her dearly. Justifying the fact that I was too busy a man to look after her I put her in a boarding school who unlike me would tend to her every need and take care of her.

Every Saturday my assistant would fetch her from the school and we would spend the evening in the park, sitting on the bench, chatting.The wooden bench was beautiful not only because it was flanked by a meadow of daffodils and ferns on one side and a huge birch tree standing by a small brook on the other, but because it carried pleasant memories of me and Sandy and had overheard all our little secrets.

Those few hours were sheer bliss. I’d sit, an enchanted audience, to her childish talk, her petty complaints, and innocent gossips. To me nothing was sweeter in the world than to listen to her talk and to watch the way her little brown eyes would round in amazement at her own stories. Now and then she would stretch her little hands asking for a promise so she could safely confide her little secrets to me. And when the time would come for her to return to her school she’d cling to my shoulders. I’d feel like the most brutal guy but then I was just doing what was best for her. I’d send her back to school, with a heavy heart of course.

One day, an unfortunate one as people called it, I got a phone call from Sandy’s school saying that she fell from the third storey of the building and sustained severe injuries on her skull and that she was no more. But angels don’t die, do they? I refused to believe them, they were a bunch of foolish people. I refused to cry, my angel was there in the school taking lessons. Instead I waited for Saturday to come. It did after a couple of days.

I waited for her on the bench in the park. I waited till sunset. After a few minutes sun rose again. She never came. She must be doing her math assignment I said to myself and got back to work. The next Saturday I waited again, she did not turn up. She must’ve caught the flu from one of the girls I decided. She must be busy with her exams I informed myself when she deprived me the pleasure of being with her again. Thus two years went with yearnings and excuses but I still went to the park on Saturdays, waiting for her.

One Saturday I was walking towards the bench when I found that someone had already occupied the bench. Rather than getting furious like I usually do, I was surprised. It was a small kid- about the age of my Sandy. She was very much different from Sandy but there was something special about that kid, I couldn’t point out what. Something in her resembled Sandy. I stood there watching her play with her doll that was just as ragged as she was. She would talk with the doll endlessly in a language I didn’t understand. At around sunset she left. I waited for a few more minutes trying to find an excuse for Sandy not coming but failed. I went home empty headed.

I couldn’t get myself to wait till the Saturday so I decided against my decisions that I’d go to the park the next day. She was there staring into the brook, watching butterflies as they fluttered about the daffodils. I kept returning to that place like a man possessed to the park and watch her from behind the birch tree, trying to find out what semblance she bore with Sandy. Another kid solved my problem when he made her laugh.Yes , that was it. When she laughed it wasn’t just her lips that did it. She smiled with all her face, brow lifted, eyes creased, she smiled- delighted and content, just like my Sandy. I looked around and learnt that she belonged to the group of nomadic people who had put up their caravan and tents near the park.

That night I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t go to work the next day. All that I knew was that I would bring that kid back with me. I’d keep her to myself. I’ll tell her stories, teach her math, pillow fight with her and take care of her. She would talk to me with her black eyes rounded in amazement. Yes, I’ll bring her home and never send her away.

It was Saturday the next day. I ran to the park, to the angel with the ragged toy to gather her in my arms, and bring her home.


I kept running, oblivious to time, space and distance till I reached the park. I ran to where the wooden bench was.

Suddenly the wooden bench looked old and rotten. She wasn’t there. She wasn’t there with her ragged doll, staring at the pond, watching butterflies. No it was not just that she wasn’t there. ‘She was gone’. It hit me only when I turned around to find that the caravan had moved away and it had taken my angel with it. The caravan was carrying more than what it had before- it was taking away with it all my dreams.

Suddenly it stopped raining. It felt like the clouds had cried away all their tears. My knees hurt and I felt like I was falling. A drop of tear reluctantly emerged from my eyes and escaped the pain that was there. My heart melted trickled and down my eyes- colourless as my world had become.
I cried out- loud.