In the summer of 2011, my elder brother decided, (disregarding the hard-hitting logic of “but why” presented by yours truly) to tie the knot and give in to the life of baby-vomit, sleepless nights and seemingly endless dawats that accompany a married life. Somehow, that decision also bore with it the folly of upgrading to a bigger car and ending the long-running and supremely satisfactory service of our beloved little Toyota Ceres.
To say that the Ceres was a saint among cars, would've been apt—it ran for years with just basic maintenance and came with a sleek body draped in red that was revolutionary for its time, since it looked like a two-door sports car despite having four doors and a tolerable trunk. It had very little headroom and rear passengers would occasionally need the use of a hacksaw to fit inside if they were particularly tall—thus my brother's fateful decision that it just would not do as a family car. Armed with nothing but our wits and useless bargaining skills, it was therefore time to hit the classifieds for a bigger car.
Enter the hulking behemoth that would later become the sole torment of our nightmares—a golden Toyota Vista, otherwise known as the Camry, of 1992 vintage. It was picked out of a field of equally fit cars that had congregated for the sole purpose of being shoved off to some unlucky sod at a weekly bazar of used cars. Bower birds and magpies are famous for picking out brightly coloured trash in order to attract mates come summer—pretty much the only explanation for why my brother sought out this golden heap of metal against all my protests. We ended up buying it, and what seemed like a decent purchase at first brought out all the stops in trying to prove me right merely two weeks after it entered our driveway.
Pre-wedding celebrations were in full-swing as my brother's entire posse of friends, with myself in tow, ventured out one night for some tea. Instead of sticking to the basics, they decided the then-newly constructed roads around Mirpur DOHS would be a great destination for a drive. After nearly an hour of sitting about getting bitten by mosquitoes and enjoying mediocre tea, it was time to head back… except our old-new car refused to start. Far from home and covered in a million red protrusions that itched like hell, we decided to call for help from a friend who always carries a tow rope. That night should've been a wake-up call, but we endured.
Over the next half-a-year, the air-conditioning failed, the windows occasionally developed their own twisted intelligence, the starter motor seemed to think it needed a break from duties at the worst of times, the windshield decided it was time to start letting the elements in and the hateful automatic gearbox leapt up and down its ratios without any prompt. Despite our best efforts, it kept sliding downhill like a petulant child refusing to respond to positive reinforcement.
Few years down the line, my brother decided Bangladesh wouldn't cut it and promptly left with my sister-in-law, deciding to start a family in the US and ultimately rendering this whole exercise pointless. Left to my own constantly-financially-challenged self, the Vista kept gathering dust and mould, neglect pushing it further into the money-pit. The few times I tried fixing it up resulted in my thoughtful colleagues nicknaming it “Sonali Bank” since it kept swallowing up all my money, and surreptitiously enlisting the help of friends, random passer-bys and family to help push it home.
I won't let it die, though. Once you've been forced to push a car home at 2 am on the eve of Eid, in the middle of a thunderstorm while wearing pajamas and an undershirt, you form a sort of hateful bond that makes you want to see the whole relationship through. The same applies to all the groans and jokes your friends make as they help push a tonne-and-a-half of a car home for the hundredth time. It's also difficult to dismiss all the imprints left behind on its faded, mouldy seats—the memories shared between loved ones, the fights over playlists and the aux cord between friends, the countless trinkets disappearing into the black hole that exists between the seats and the centre console.
Our tendency to attach human emotions to inanimate objects is nothing new. It teaches different people different things—some learn to value what they have, others find solace in the fact that maybe there is such a thing as permanence in an impermanent world. For me, I learned a valuable lesson that will stay with me for life—never get married. Especially if it means selling off a bright red Toyota Ceres.
Shaer Reaz is in-charge, Shift, an automobile publication of The Daily Star.