The roof of a blue Ambassador car is the best place for some relaxation. I can bet nobody has ever told you that. I was probably seven when I stumbled on this discovery, which makes me somewhat of a prodigy I reckon. Some of the best memories of winter holidays at my grandparents’ in Tura have magically emanated while lying flat on that springy roof—gazing up at the sun playing peek-a-boo with the fronds of the coconut trees; every sound I heard was more magnified, every sight a lasting impression. I’d leave no evidence of my afternoon ritual, save a slight blue dent in the middle of the roof. If or when Atchu (my grandfather) discovered the uneven topography on the top of the world, a shower of falling coconuts was always the culprit. I made sure of that.
My gaze would shift away slowly from the sun and to the enormous jackfruit tree on my right, which I was convinced was haunted. Even in the daylight, it shimmered eerily and I half-expected a sleeping spirit to tumble out of its branches. The magnificent Tura peak to my left was a far more appealing sight. I’d stare long enough at the green, waiting for something beautiful to happen. No, I didn’t expect goblins to fly out of the trees, or the sudden appearance of the ‘Mande Burung’ (Man of the Jungle) from Ambi’s (my grandmother’s) stories. Patience would be rewarded with not a sight, but a sound; a loud chorus – “Hurooooooo!”. “The forest is talking to me!” I’d think and my ears would dart about quickly, trying to find the exact spot from where the sound originated. The trees were always two steps ahead of me, with a “Hurrrroooo” here and a “Hurrrroooooo” there, every few minutes! I loved this game and it was the kind that I didn’t want to ever win.
When I wasn’t perched on top of the rickety Ambassador, I’d be cruising around the town in it. My cousins and I would fight for the front passenger seat, but not for the same reasons. They wanted it to feel important while I liked how my side of the seat would suddenly bounce upwards as soon as someone else sat on the other end; a little see-saw, if you please, inside the magic Ambassador.
The elders in the family weren’t strangers to my notion of the talking trees. Our drives in the car always followed a little ritual. Atchu would take us to a place in the town where the trees made the same sound. As soon as we were near, he’d honk twice while I waited expectantly. “Hurrroooo Hurrrroooo”, the trees echoed and swished, and my heart sang along with them. This was my moment of everyday magic. Everything was based on a simple equation: honk twice, the trees echo, and all is right with the world.
Many years have since passed. The trees are thinner, the eyes wearied, and the Ambassador was retired long ago. The roof of any car would be dented beyond repair if I attempted my childhood climb. I learnt ( a little too soon enough) that there were furry faces behind those sounds, and name – the Hoolock Gibbon; but it’s been a while since I heard the Singing Green. Where have all our Huros gone?
Blue Ambassador: Saatchi Art
Hoolock Gibbon: Hadassa Chelsea Sangma