Wednesday 24 October 2018

Treasured Wheels : Vintage Cars & Bikes Museum, Guwahati

It was 21st October, 2018 and one of our cousins had come to visit us. The major attraction behind his visit to our home this time was the vintage museum, 'Treasured Wheels' in Sonapur, Guwahati. It is owned and run by a common man who had and have been spending his hard earned money to setup something that people of Assam can be proud of. My cousin did not even know that this place existed until he saw a photo of a red old Mini Cooper that I had uploaded on my Instagram story. Since then, he heard a lot about this place from me. He had been planning to visit the place along with me and my sister.
The thought of seeing hundreds of vintage cars, bikes, clocks, and items from the era of World Wars was not only exciting for him but also for us too because we had not visited the place for a year or two. During our last visit, we saw a huge collection of items. Although the items were not in mint condition, there were Fords, Volkswagens, Mini Coopers, Fiats, Royal Enfields, Jawas, Nortons, and many more. We even saw a motorcycle from the World Wars that could be folded and carried on the back during a sky dive. So, on this autumn break he finally managed some time to visit us and we made a plan to go to Treasured Wheels on 22nd October, 2018.

It was a fine morning, and the weather was pleasant too. The sun was shining bright but it was not as hot like summers. After finishing our chores, I, my sister, our cousin, our parents and an uncle started our journey at 1 PM. Since, there was not enough space in the car for another person to sit in the car, I decided to take my motorcycle. Moreover, our cousin had brought his camera too, so I did not want to miss the opportunity to get some photos clicked of me with my bike for my Instagram.
The destination was just 20kms away from our home. But from our previous visit we remembered that the road that lead to the museum was not in a good condition. First time we visited the place, the road looked unlikely to be leading to anywhere but that is how the road is. It is the road that diverges to the left from the entrance of the Brahmaputra Jungle resort, Sonapur, Guwahati. It is on a hill and the road was not properly constructed. I was a bit skeptical to ride the bike till the top but since it was not raining I decided to take the risk. The road is narrow with bushes and trees on both sides. There are loose soil, stones, and rocks all over the road to make the path ever tougher. I decided to go in front of the car to avoid the dust. To my surprise, the road has gone from bad to worse. At certain points I had second thoughts about completing the ride till the destination. And my bike, the Suzuki Gixxer, is not built for paths like that. It was more like a off road trail for dual sport bikes. It could very well be an off-road track. I can only imagine the condition of it during the monsoons. It was easily one of the worst roads I have ever ridden a bike on. I had gone far ahead of the car and there was no one nearby too. The tyres were struggling for grip as there were only loose stones all around. I just had only one though in my mind, "whatever happens just don't fall". There was no sign of the car behind and I finally reached the museum and the first thing I noticed was a rusted chain that locked the entrance gates of the museum. The museum was closed. So much of struggle and planning to reach a place that was close. It was disappointing. I parked the bike near the gate and looked around but there was not a single person and also the car did not reach yet. I clicked a 'selfie' with my bike in the background as a memory because I was sure that I would not ride my bike to that place again. 
The thought of being alone in a place on the top of a hill with forest surrounding it from all the sides was scary. The incidents of human-leopard encounters are increasing in Guwahati and I did not want to be a victim of leopard attack. Since, there was no sign of the car yet, it was now obvious that there was something wrong and being in an isolated location, there was no cell phone network too. Moreover I could not take my bike to go back as there was no space to turn the bike on the road if the car came from the opposite direction, so I started walking back. After walking for a few meters I saw our cousin walking towards me. He informed that the car could not make it any further because ground clearance was not allowing the to move over certain bumps and rocks. And then I had to break the bad news to him about the place not being open. We both were disheartened and decided to go back. The road was too dangerous to carry a pillion and descend so he walked back to the car and I was riding only few meters ahead of him as leaving someone alone there would not be a great idea. We reunited with the other members and gave the same information about the museum being closed. We decided to stop at a restaurant for a cup of tea and Sonapur has dozens of those. 
After everyone got few photos clicked beside the road while coming back, we took a stop at one of the resorts. My mother being a writer in magazines had the contact information of the museum's owner for some content purpose so she called him to enquire about any change in the opening hours of the museum. The information from the other side was even more disheartening. The owner informed in grief that there were some issues and the government wanted the place to be evicted. It happened to be a tough situation for him.
He had setup that vintage museum with his hard earned money without the support of anyone, so that people of Assam could have something special. Relocating it meant spending a lot again from his own pocket.
All the cars, bikes, and other vintage items now need to be moved to a new location through those bad patches of road. It was also informed to us that there will be a new museum set up soon again in Sonapur but in my opinion it would definitely need some time to take a proper shape.
No matter what the issues were that led to such hard times but we with all our hearts want 'Treasure Wheels' to stand in its full glory once again. For us not being able to visit the museum after so much of planning and struggle was a disheartening experience but the experience to leave a place that had your blood, sweat, and tears gone into its making can only be imagined. 


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