When we say ‘Chennai’ it has a here-and-now sort of feeling.
When we say ‘Madras’, there’s a shift in the heart, and nostalgia takes over, automatically going back in time. You could say your mind develops an invisible hand, that reaches back into the depths of your thoughts and memories, sifting, and effortlessly reaching the corners where old memories sit lolling gently beside each other. They’re cozy where they are, but also equally happy to be pulled out from those recesses to present a golden memory for you to examine and reminisce over.
That’s what happened to me when we began creating Madras-themed designs at Chennaigaga. One of the most prominent memories I have of the times this city was Madras, is the prevalence and experience of the Ambassador Car. (Aka Amby)
Sure, it was just another sturdy vehicle which transported people and things from place to place like any other car would do — but now, it’s a golden memory! It’s a mix of emotions i felt as a kid, when family trips where planned and executed. That feeling of heavy anticipation as I opened the car door (with the freakishly tiny button on the handle) and climbed UP into the ‘Amby’! You see, the kids had to be ready first and wait in the car, as the adults scrambled to wind up their domestic and other responsibilities before taking any trip. Then came person after person entering the car with thuds and heaves aand unlike the sleek cars of today, the stout Amby would not even seem to notice just how many humans flounced onto its seats.
Its boot or dicky as it was then called, was as big as the mouth of the loudest person in the party(!). And the space it offered! You could fit a small party of people in there!
(As with all good memories, perhaps this is a small exaggeration too.)
The car itself could not be called posh or fancy but it was definitely the Family’s best friend. The way it could accommodate a suspiciously high number of people and luggage without looking stuffed, the way the driver of the car felt like he could just as easily be driving a truck, the way people hung their heads out of the windows like happy dogs — windows which they had ferociously wound down using a spindly handle designed to make you break in to sweat. Doing anything with that car was a workout of sorts!
The Amby however, remained a solid companion, providing much confidence, allowing no dents and bumps to make a big difference to its majestic appearance, and barreling down to its destination regardless of speed. Basically, it always looked like it was barreling down the road! Such was the force of Namma favourite Amby.
The car that could take as much as you could give it and more. The car that was everybody’s status symbol. The car that made no apologies for its less-than-svelte appearance (!) The car that appealed to both celebrities and the masses.
The car that represented a time when Chennai was Madras.
This theme is from my personal favourites of the design collection at Chennaigaga, seen here on a T-shirt as well as on a mousepad. Designed by Artist Rajamaran and Swamynathan respectively.
Note: I’m not altogether sorry that this post sounds like an advertisement for the beloved Amby Car 😁