Plymouth - A Saga From Shirālī A Shirālī
Lt. Col. Ānand A Shirālī chronicles the tale of an automobile that began its journey from the hallowed portals of Shrī Chitrāpur Math Shirālī, traversed time and space for over half a century in the custody of a blessed caretaker, and how it finally returned to the fold of its original master.
The Plymouth (Cranbrook), a four-door sedan model of Chrysler corporation was an integral part of H.H. Shrīmad Ānandāshram Swāmījī’s fleet in the mid and late 1950s. H.H. Swāmījī used to drive and give preferential treatment to this car and used it for most visits out of Shirālī.
Late Shrī Shirālī Maṅgesh Rāo, who served as part of H.H. Swāmījī’s entourage in various capacities, happened to know in 1961/1962.. that this particular car is likely to be replaced by a new "Dodge" variant and that the Plymouth may be auctioned to offset the finances. Having been closely associated with H.H. Ānandāshram Swāmījī and having known His affection for the car, Shirālī Maṅgesh Rāo rushed home to take stock of his own finances and offered a bid of around Rs 10,000 for the car. He got the vehicle registered with the Regional Transport officer at Uḍupī in 1963, and thus began the second chapter in the tale of the Plymouth Cranbrook.
Shirālī Maṅgesh Rāo mām was a photographer by profession and a budding artist who used this privileged car to diligently pursue and expand the area of influence of his business. It maybe coincidental, but his business prospered subsequently. It was during the mid-1960s that his son Aruṇ M Shirālī entered the business at the young age of 16, and also developed a life-long romance with automobiles. He was fascinated by the ambient aura of the Plymouth and vowed at that young age to preserve the car to the best of his capabilities
However, the one car that never left his side throughout his life was the Plymouth Cranbrook. Like his father, Shrī Aruṇ M Shirālī considered it a blessing from H.H. Ānandāshram Swāmījī, and H.H. Swāmījī’s divine photo permanently adorned the dashboard. While Shrī Aruṇ A Shirālī used to rent out his other vintage cars (including a 1929 Ford) for events in Uḍupī, the Plymouth was the exception, ensuring that it’s pristine, exalted position was retained. Owing to technical issues, while Shrī Aruṇ M Shirālī made modifications to the engine and the windscreen, the basic body and the chassis remained in its original state. The car became legendary amongst children on the streets of Uḍupī and was famously called "Kappe Car" (Frog Car in Kannaḍa), as Shrī Aruṇ M Shirālī undertook his daily early-morning ritual of driving the car around town.
In the year 2019 during the Shilānyāsa at the Shrī Shaṅkarnārāyaṇa Temple Uḍupī, Shrī Aruṇ M Shirālī had the privilege of driving H.H. Shrīmat Sadyojāt Shaṅkarāshram Swāmījī in this very Plymouth. This small drive with H.H. Swāmījī, triggered a thought in the mind of Shrī Aruṇ M Shirālī that the vehicle must be returned to the Mat͟h at a future time. This proposal was discussed with the family, who stood by his call of reckoning and supported the proposal to offer the Plymouth at the Lotus Feet of Parama Pūjya Swāmījī on an auspicious date. However, subsequent COVID restrictions as also the deteriorating health of Shrī Aruṇ M Shirālī unfortunately precluded this.
On 6th July 2021, during a conversation with his wife Smt. Geethā A Shirālī, Shrī Aruṇ M Shirāli once again expressed the desire to offer the Plymouth to H.H. Swāmījī; but in a sad turn of events, Shrī Aruṇ M Shirāli left for his heavenly abode on 19 July 2021 after battling a prolonged illness. His wish that the Plymouth reach its rightful place remained unfulfilled. It was now upto the family i.e. Smt. Geethā A Shirālī, his son Lt. Col. Ānand A Shirālī and daughter Smt. Kripā Nagarkar to fulfil that noble intention.
On 2nd August 2021, in a small solemn occasion at Shrī Chitrāpur Mat͟h, Mallāpur, known to all as Guru Mat͟h, the family under the stewardship of Smt. Geethā A Shirālī, offered the Plymouth at the Lotus Feet of H.H. Shrīmat Sadyojat Shaṅkarāshram Swāmījī. It was an enthralling, magical moment when H.H. Swāmījī took the wheel and went for a drive with Lt. Col. Ānand A Shirālī as co-driver. Despite the archaic driving mechanisms and unknown intricacies of a vintage car, H.H. Swāmījī drove with utmost comfort and elan, reinvigorating the age-old bond between The Guru and this beloved automobile.
Thus began a new chapter in the saga of the Plymouth as it was rightfully restored to the Shrī Chitrapur Mat͟h Sansthāna. The small handing over ceremony would certainly have made Shrī Aruṇ M Shirālī proud and happy as he doubtlessly watched from his heavenly abode. It was also a befitting tribute to the life of Shrī Aruṇ M Shirālī, who dedicated an enormous amount of love, time, effort, and finances to maintain the Plymouth as a living memory of its original master.
A new chapter now awaits the Plymouth as it seeks to venture further in time and space as a part of the holy entourage of H.H. Shrīmat Sadyojāt Shaṅkarāshram Swāmījī, The 11th Mat͟hādhipati of Shrī Chitrāpur Math