Comfortably Numb

Sheila Kumar's Storehouse

Published on: 05/31/90 6:00 AM

Feature: Tribute to Delilah

                                                               Paean for Delilah
The writing had been up on the wall for some time now, only we had deliberately looked the other way. And today, she seems to be finally giving up the ghost.
There she stands, our black Ambassador, grande dame of 28 years, just refusing to start.
I look at the old girl and wonder if anything is still preserved of her youth, under the comparatively recent paint job and upholstery jobs.
I’m sure of one thing, though. The soul has remained the same.
Having Delilah in the garage is like having a Doberman in the kennel. She is Ole Faithful, indeed, the stout, amiable siren our family had favoured over newer, sleeker models.
I don’t remember when we actually acquired Delilah, but I clearly remember how gradually she became the family obsession, giving up this lead role only in the recent past to take on the status of beloved retainer.
Always a family that liked to go places, we were never happier than when we had Delilah to take us places. I remember some very unusual trips in Delilah, family plus maid plus dogs,criss-crossing the country from Delhi to Palakkad, from Pune to Puri.
After a while, we only had to look at a stationary Delilah in the garage and we would be heading to the kitchen to take down our picnic hamper.
Notwithstanding her name, she was a homely sort, our Delilah. No Sunday best clothes or behaviour were called for; we could and would clutch at her insides with sticky fingers, put up sneaker-clad feet on her seats. She was our mobile Earth Mother.
She was family. She was there, part of our highs and lows. She helped us tackle tough driving tests. She drove us to collect our school reports, college results, our appointment letters.
She drove us girls to the hospital, evading potholes carefully as we doubled up on the back seat with delivery pains. And, of course, she drove us back home, the new baby held safely up front, after a few days.
Now I could see those “new babies” trying to start her up, running anxious hands over her gleaming bonnet, talking in low monotones to her. “It’s no good” I hear my father say, in a resigned voice, “She’s had it.”
There is one long, awful moment when we study Delilah and she looks back at us. And then, she starts up! With a bit of gasping, creaking and clanking, she starts up and switches over to her familiar hum.

Excuse me. I’ve got to go tear up that black-bordered obituary.We aren’t’ planning on that drive into the sunset as yet. This not-so-little siren of ours is doing just fine, thank you.

This appeared in DECCAN HERALD of 30 May 1990.
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Sheila Kumar • May 31, 1990

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