Chembur-car in the USA

Chembur-car in the USA

An US citizen in the state of Virginia has taken up a license plate with the words “Chembur” for his Tesla electric vehicle.

US citizen Anil Nair has been stopped by random strangers, some of whom became ‘new friends’. The story began almost 7 years ago when he acquired his Tesla Model S 70D – when it had a faux-front grille or the so-called “nose cone” design. The vehicle has nothing to do with strangers initiating random conversations. It’s the license plate bearing the name Chembur, that is the cynosure of all eyes.

“I have had situations where random people have rolled down their windows to share their quick memory about Chembur or their connection to Chembur. There are kids who stopped me to talk about the fact that they have heard great things about Chembur from their parents who grew up there,” says Nair.

“I have made new friends purely because of this plate! For us, all these instances put a smile on our face and take us back to that happy place,” he says recalling the first half of his life in Chembur, a Mumbai suburb. 

Chembur, “the leafy-green suburb of Mumbai” as he describes it, was home for the first 25 years of his life. “Chembur provided the strong foundation that we continue to leverage even today. My dad worked at RCF, mother was a homemaker, a sister (who continues to enjoy Chembur) and brother (who has since relocated to Auckland) lived in this extremely cosmopolitan and diverse community called RCF Colony,” he recalls. 

In an interaction with the Chembur Pulse team, Nair goes for a drive down memory lane. He attended St Sebastians High School and Swami Vivekanand college. “I still remember the small pleasures of queuing up for the dal-pakwan at Vig, the mouthwatering gulab jamun from Jhamas, the occasional masala dosa at Geeta Bhavan, sometimes with the great Raj Kapoor casually sipping chai at the next table, idli-vada-sambar at Saroj, those celebrations at Grand Central and Vaishali, negotiating on the 25p/page ‘xerox’ of our engineering text books, visiting Chedda Nagar temple and Ahobila Mutt and so much more!” 

Somewhere in between all of this Nair finished his engineering, started working and eventually landed in the US, 25 years ago.  

A few years back, the idea of registering a vehicle with a personalized license plate came about. The state of Virginia, where Nair stays, has the highest percentage of personalized license plates in the US. “And yes, it is transferable – we can port the same plate/personalization onto a new car – so long as it’s unique and attached to only one vehicle at a time,” Nair explains.

The Nair family had the option to use a personalized plate. Then came the difficult step – zeroing in on an emotion that resonates with who we are; and delivers a sense of identity. The family considered several options including  Klinair, Bybygas, Nomogas and so on.

In the US the restriction is on seven characters for the license plate.

“Finally, we went back to basics and settled on Chembur. What you love in childhood stays in your heart forever. Chembur evoked the right emotion, sounded more authentic, relatable and closer to heart,” says Nair. 

He adds, “My wife who is from Garodia Nagar agreed that Chembur is indeed an emotion that we should wear on our (cars) sleeve.” That’s how the Chembur license plate adorned their vehicle. The Nairs had to pay a $10 premium annually for the personalisation in addition to the regular plate fee – this is for the state of Virginia. 

But how does an electric vehicle named Chembur resonate with the public image of the suburb as a ‘gas chamber’? Nair says that several friends of his have noticed that contradiction. “Unfortunately, even today people are reminded of the ‘gas chamber’ reference when they see my car. To be frank, even I sensed some irony with the two aspects conjoined,” he says. 

Nair recalls, “I remember “Make Chembur Green” was something that was painted all over Chembur back in the days. My Chembur (reference to his electric vehicle) is as green as it gets, so maybe an ode to the gas chamber reference.” 

Nair is positive about Chembur, the suburb. And he has a sweet little wish. “Maybe the gas chamber reference for Chembur is to ward off the ‘evil eye’ that has sustained the charm of this place? I am sure it is not too far when we will witness a Tesla with a CHEMBUR plate driving around in Chembur.”

“We now accept the fact that learning is a lifelong process of keeping abreast of change. And the most pressing task is to teach people how to learn”. – Peter Drucker

Reader Comments

  1. A Very Well Written Article. Chembur – The Name Itself Rekindles Nostalgic Moments Of The Past!
    For The Kids It Was Lulla Cloth Store (For Uniforms), Vaswani Book Stall (For All Books) & Well, The Choice Of Lip-smacking Snacks Were Plenty. When The Other Places Had Their Own Khao Galli’s, The Whole Of Chembur Camp Had Unique Snack Items

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