I remember going to school riding Black Beauty during the mid-1960s. She was the epitome of beauty, sturdiness, power and reliability. Her curves and lines made many a head turn. She was a rare specimen and never failed in her duty or shirked from her responsibility.
Black Beauty was powerful enough to ferry us five siblings to school and my mother to the army hospital every morning. My mother owned her. The afternoon run back from school was also her responsibility. She accompanied us on holiday trips during our formidable childhood years. She would sleep alone in the garage during the cold winter nights without a complaint. We would bathe her on weekends when she would come out shining spic and span. She was a part of the family, a very important member indeed. During her stay with our family she accompanied us to Lucknow, Allahabad, Jaipur, Patiala, Ambala, Delhi and many more cantonments.
Black Beauty was our black-coloured 1960 model Italian Fiat car with front-opening front doors. She was aptly named Kali Ghori by my mother. Whenever she refused to start, my mother would pat her and say, "Na tang kar mainu (Please don't trouble me)" and lo and behold she would purr up the engine. The only attention she sought was water in the radiator and an engine oil level check every morning. An occasional flat tyre or battery charging during winter was the only trouble she gave us.
I learnt driving thanks to her.
The old Fiat had many a modern day car innovations. The windscreen wipers spray system was through a hand-pressed rubber cap and not a motor. The direction indicator light flasher in the dash board had a half metallic cap to turn down the flasher illumination level at night. There were no electronics back then.
The front-opening front doors were convenient to get in and out of the car, but one could not jump out of a moving car as the open doors would push the driver or passenger jumping out under the car. Hence, called suicide doors. Unlike modern cars, the old Fiat car wheel nuts would open clockwise or anti-clockwise on the left and right wheels to ensure that they did not get loose while rotating.
Black Beauty was a part of our family till my mother passed away. She was replaced by a Maruti-800 that made her look redundant and a gas guzzler. Several new generation cars came to our house after that but they could not replace the intangible relationship we shared with our Kali Ghori. After all, she was a part of our childhood. Finally, a scrap-dealer bought her and yes, she was sold as scrap.
A decade ago, I was at an auto-fair at Milan in Italy. A black-coloured old model Fiat similar to our Black Beauty was on display as a prized vintage car. I wished we had kept our Kali Ghori. She would have been worth a fortune today.