Ambassador cars and cricket are forever linked in my head, along with my childhood in Kolkata. My uncle owned a grey Amby. I still remember its number was BRN 7900. When that car was stolen, he bought another ambassador that was ‘Monsoon Yellow’. This one’s number was WBS 1598 (Strange, how that has stuck with me).
The connection with cricket is because I can’t help wondering what Nana Periappa would have thought of the IPL…He loved his cricket, and while I can’t recollect exactly, I am pretty sure he took five days off from work during the test matches. Sometimes, our two families would get together, may be on the final day or when India was batting well, and Dad and Periappa would be glued to the radio, scowling or laughing at something the commentators Pearson Surita, Narottam Puri or Anant Setalvad had said.
I remember my cousins and I falling about in helpless mirth because some commentator once said, “The ‘drunks’ have come on to the field, instead of the ‘drinks’. And another time we giggled loud and long as some foreign commentator referred to a Subramanium as ‘submarine’. But what we kept our ears open for was the loud shout when Gavaskar made his century. Because if he did, Periappa would drive us all in his Ambassador, straight to Amber, a restaurant in Calcutta, which served the best prawn cocktail ever! I can’t imagine how much money Amber made thanks to us, because Gavaskar kept hitting centuries!
My dad remembers another India West Indies match when he was in college. He had gone with friends to Eden Gardens where they were pleasantly surprised to see so many ‘good’ seats empty. They learnt later that there had been some firing or lathi charge and spectators had rushed out. But, says dad, “More than anything else, the excitement of waking up early to reach the venue and join the queue, the hard boiled eggs and the sandwiches that we packed and took along and all the witty comments and conversations exchanged with perfect strangers, made the matches memorable.”
Our neighbours, the Parashuramkas, also had an Ambassador, and curiously, there is a cricket connection there too. Apart from being one of the very few who owned a car in our locality, they were also the first in the neighbourhood to get a television set.
I am sure many of us who lived in ‘O’ Block of New Alipore, Calcutta, will remember sitting in their hall on a chatai, watching open-mouthed, as the brave but diminutive Indian cricketers took on the giant West Indies.
Those were wonder years. Today, we are going to order dinner out and hope CSK goes through to the finals.
If they do, then tomorrow, irrespective of who wins, Kolkata Knight Riders or CSK, we will raise a toast to Periappa and then to the Ambassador.