Treasured Wheels, Treasured Dreams
Approximately 15 kilometres from Guwahati is the Tepesia Road, Sonapur; the destination for curious and exploratory minds as it is the location where one can find vintage collections of decades - old clocks, cameras, telephones, gramophones, coins, along with dozens of old cars, motorbikes, bicycles, etc. Taken care of by Piklu Deka, a junior engineer of the Assam State Electricity Board (ASEB), the name of this museum is – Treasured Wheels, The Northeast heritage Foundation.
“Ever since my school days I’ve had deep fascination towards vintage items. I used to collect clocks, cameras, etc. from my friends and neighbours back in those days; sometimes in exchange of a small amount of money or mostly without that. Certain instruments thrown away by people as trash are precious collection to me. They give me immense happiness and mental pleasure, along with extreme amount of personal satisfaction,” says Deka.
A very amiable and down to earth man, Piklu Deka hails from Dibrugarh, Assam. It was in the year 2013 that the dream of this junior engineer turned into a reality with the inception of the museum, which has already enticed hundreds of visitors from across Northeast India. Besides old cars, bicycles and clocks, Treasured Wheels stores safes from the time of 2nd World War, gas masks and parachutes.
The destination, alongside serving as a museum, provides an opportunity for the visitors to hold picnics, hangouts, stay over on tree houses, etc. They even rent out mobile kitchens.
The proprietor has arranged the vintage cars in a circular pattern at the top of the hillock under a tin shed. Due to the lack of availability of space, many vehicles in the remote areas of Assam are rusting. Deka requests the owners of the vehicles to take care of their respective vehicles instead of letting them rust due to lack of attention.
Reportedly, Deka has around 50 cars and 25 bikes. His collections range from a 1921 Chevrolet to 1922 Austin-7 and the 1936 Fiat Topolino to 1944 Volkswagen. Jeep, Morris, convertible Sunbeam, 1945 model Buick, Fords from the 1930s and 1940s and Volkswagen Beetle are some of the other cars in his collection. His bike collection includes seven wonders from the World War II era, Norton 650 of 1932, BSA 500 of 1938, 1940 Royal Enfield, Sunbeam 500 of 1942, Triumph 350 of 1934 and a US made Paradrop Scooter from 1933 which weighs only about 20 kg, among other exhibits.
Deka utilises a major chunk of his salary in maintaining the museum. He says, “I feel proud that this is a one of its kind museum in entire Northeast. I dedicate a major part of my salary to this museum and often take loans from the bank. I received a one-time aid of Rs two lakhs from the state government to uplift the museum and take care of it.”
Among Deka’s most prized possessions are a copy of the Statesman dated 15th August, 1947, the car in which former Prime Minister of India Lt Rajiv Gandhi visited Shillong along with wife Sonia Gandhi, a self starter scooter from Royal Enfield from the 1940s and antique clocks from 1800-1970 AD.
Deka wishes to gift the museum to the future generations and so, he refuses to sell his entities. “Once, I received an offer of Rs 18 crores for a particular entity but I rejected it because when I get old and unable to dedicate myself to the museum, it’s not the money that’ll provide me the strength and energy to help fight diseases, but the beauty of Treasured Wheels and the green environment that’ll come as help,” informed Deka.
Treasured Wheels is surrounded by 22000 trees that provides fresh oxygen and makes the entrance unique. Deka urges the youth of the country to be his visitors and explore the growth of mankind in the last two centuries. His message to the youth is, “conserve hertotage”.