Sitting in his aesthetically designed sprawling office, Tarun Thakral is today relaxed and a happy man. Years of hard struggle, planning and running to see his dream of setting up India first Heritage Transport Museum has come true. “I am really happy” says Tarun as his fingers magically moves to his lap top to showcase the wonderful inauguration of the Heritage Museum which was thrown open to general public on December 7.
The imposing building with an ultra modern outlook itself speaks of the hard work that has gone to translate a dream into a reality. Inspired by similar structures in London in the United Kingdom and Los Angeles in the US, the museum captures the history of transportation in India as ‘how we travelled down the ages’.
The museum — which sprawls across four levels — was completed in three years at a cost of Rs14 crore, of which Rs. 6 crore was provided by the Union ministry of culture. Gurgaon-based architect Jyoti Rath has designed the building that houses artefacts collected mostly from private donors.
A look at the museum itself justifies that the labour gone to set up this masterpiece classic was definitely worth it.
In an exclusive interview with The Times, Tarun recalled the magical moments that have passed in designing and setting up of this museum.
On setting up of the museum Tarun said that wheel has always fascinated him since childhood. “I could see how civilisation grew to reach this level ever since wheel came into existence. Luckily in Delhi one could so many modes of transport. It just needed to club it together in a thematic presentation that encapsulates almost all mode of transport”.
Tarun started collecting cars at an early age and then his interest grew to other mode of transport. “I bought palanquins, bullock cart, camel cart, howdahs used for elephant ride. Hand driven rickshaw, train saloon of the Maharaja of Jodhpur, and ofcourse the wild range of automobiles, ships and then planes were added to my personal collection.”
As his collection grew in size, the space at his farmland in the suburbs of Delhi became short. Tarun had a huge chunk of land in Taoru, Haryana and so he decided to transport to the warehouse in the new location. It was at this juncture that the idea to set up the museum began to germinate.
With financial aid of Rs 6 crores coming from the Ministry of Culture, Tarun battle was half won. The concept then began taking shape. “I have just tried to give something back to the community. I hope this museum becomes a sustainable way for people to look at the past and draw a suitable vantage to look at the present. I chose this place, which is a bit removed from the hustle bustle of Delhi and Gurgaon, for two reasons: firstly, the place will become a getaway from the daily grind of the cities and secondly, the cost of land was prohibitive in Delhi and Gurgaon."
The unique facility is spread across a massive area of 90,000 square feet and located off NH-8 in Taoru, around 35km from Gurgaon. It was inaugurated by Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda.
Visibly happy at the wide array of transport, Chief Minister Hooda said "When I was a child, I had driven some of the vehicles that have been put on display here now. It is very easy to appreciate, but very difficult to get this kind of collection at one place. This is the first of its kind in the country and I congratulate Tarun Thakral for it," He found the tour of the museum "fascinating".
“I am so grateful to the Hon’ble Chief Minister who evinced such a great interest in the collection and sought details of everything that was on display. Apart from his encouragement, the Haryana government was always forthcoming in granting clearance and assisting in every possible work in the paperwork”.
The four level museum has an amazing collection. As of now the museum collection is a mix of pre-modern and the modern: one can find everything from howdahs, bullock carts, palanquins and a boat that used to ply in the Yamuna to motorized vehicles of different makes and kinds, including classics as a 1924 Ford, a 1932 Chevrolet, a 1935 Buick. Apart from them there are vintage scooters, and rural Indian contraptions such as chakda and phatphat.
As Tarun rightly says that when people first saw the car they were amazed and even today when they see the old vintage car, the fascination is there.
The older generation in India has seen many modes of transport which has now become history in the urban metropolis of India. “In the museum we have a section of bullock carriage, horse carriage and even camel cart which used to transport people from one destination to another”.
Among the prized collection at the Museum is an Indian Flag that was taken to the Moon during the Apollo mission. It has been certified by the NASA authoties and Tarun had grabbed t during an auction in the US.
There is also a 1946 Piper aircraft, and transport toys from the 1920s to the 1970s displayed at the museum. Apart from these collections, there are other interesting features like old Gas station, tyres used during the years and even the advertisement that was made for the vehicles
To make it into a complete place for families to visit, the museum also has a rich restaurant. The cost of entry ticket to the place has been priced at Rs. 300 for adults and Rs. 150 for children. "The rate will be flat for both Indians and foreigners and we hope to attract the latter in large numbers," Tarun added.