The City of Joy’s Unintentional Ambassador

Gabriel Nathan
10 min readDec 7, 2022

“Ey,” Kay said to me on the bed at our Air BNB in Kolkata, “do you think you want to propose to me now?”

A ring, a hubcap, a life. Round, simple, pure. (Ankita’s photo)

“Ohn ohn,” I said, eyes crinkled, in her native Assamese. I know a few words and phrases, and she’s made matzah ball soup and soofganeeyot, but that isn’t what’s important. We know what’s important. And it ain’t houses, and it ain’t names, and it ain’t earth and it ain’t even the stars.

It even ain’t the cars either. Well, sort of.

Falling in love with someone who lives however-many-odd-thousands of miles India is from America is actually very much like any other relationship; you learn about each other, you laugh, you develop cuteisms and a language all of your own, shared experiences and memories, stories, fights, hurt, repair, affection, support, change, desire, unity, compassion, understanding. The main difference is that, in order to actually see the person you love in person, (unless you’re someone of appreciable means, which I am not), sometimes you have to sell an old shitbox. In this case, a beige-on-beige 1974 Plymouth Valiant 4-door sedan, about as desirable as a pair of diabetic loafers. It was abandoned and unloved at a neighbor’s house; I scooped it up for a song, got it running again, and sold it to finance my trip to India.

(It almost didn’t work out; the Val needed a lot of work and it would have fetched a far prettier penny had it had two fewer doors, but what can I say? American muscle-car muscleheads will always be dumb, favoring the cars they first felt up a chick in over the cars their mothers dragged them to the A&P in.)

I loved it, but it’s obvious that nobody ever felt up anybody in this car; guaranteed.

I kind of love the fact that it was a homely old car that got me to India, and that one of the things that excited me about going there (besides the obvious) was another homely old car; the Hindustan Ambassador. Easily earning the distinction of India’s national vehicle, the HM Ambassador was manufactured, with minimal changes and model variations, for an astonishingly fifty-seven years, and there are allegedly plans afoot to bring it back. Indians, particularly those who reside in Kolkata, where thousands of them still hit the roads day and…

Gabriel Nathan

Gabe is Editor in Chief of OC87 Recovery Diaries, a mental health publication. He drives an old VW year round and wears corduroy trousers in the summer.