Once upon a time, I used to actively collect stamps. A philatelist, that’s what I was, as all those early school quizzes never failed to remind me. I was also a numismatist, but let’s stick to stamps for now. These days, I don’t collect stamps much, what’s there is there, but I no longer actively accummulate. Now and then, my father receives a letter from someone or the other, sometimes the stamps are interesting, and when I am in the mood, I tear them off the cover and insert them into the one remaining stamp book that I can still track. I had three originally, but two have gone missing. I am sure they are around somewhere, but I know not where. Someday, when I am cleaning my stuff, I will probably find them, just the way my dad discovered the license raj relics (the ones I had uploaded earlier today) when he was looking through my grandfather’s stuff to separate the trivial memories from the important ones, and to summarily dispose them to the bin. I will of course do no such thing if and when I find my other albums. They are not trivial, in any case.
But anyway, three days ago, with all the carpentry going on at home, I was moving a few books and other stuff from one messy place to another, when I suddenly remembered a stamp that I had noticed in one of the letters that my dad received just the day before. I asked him about it, and strangely enough, he remembered. It is strange because he has no particular affinity to stamps, and it was not the sort of amazing stamp that one would remember. Sometimes I think our parents remember and treasure our hobbies far more than we ourselves do. But anyway, the thing is, he had the envelope with him, and I immediately proceeded to scissor out the stamp, and insert it into the stamp book. Usually, I would have left it there, but I suppose I was unusually nostalgic, and so I ended up sitting with the stamp book for 15-20 minutes looking through the many stamps, picking out the duplicates to pass on to my neighbour’s son, and to study Indian history. Oh yes, stamps are a wonderful way to put together the many bits and pieces from the past and make up some sort of wholesome whole.
Now, I like to think that I have a reasonably good collection of Indian stamps. In the early days, my main aim used to be to collect stamps of as many countries as I could. I would exchange stamps with the sole purpose of having the world at my finger-tip, so to speak. Same with coins. In that process, I think I might have given away a few very nice and pretty stamps just so I could add Trinidad and Tobago or a Vanuatu to my collection.
Over time, this changed though. I somehow fell in love with the British Queen and Indian stamps. As anyone who has collected stamps in the 80s would know, probably the easiest stamps to get, apart from Magyar Posta and Deutsche Bundespost were those little busts of the Queen of England. Most people hardly ever take a second look at them, and that was the way I was too, but one fine day, for no rhyme or reason, I suddenly started observing them. I realized while they were the same size, they came in various denominations, and I got it into my head that I would like to have at least one bust of every denomination from 1 penny to 1 pound with a few shillings thrown in for effect. And I started collecting them with a vengeance. I don’t think I have all the denominations, but I did manage to put together a reasonable number of busts. I wonder if there is actually one for every denomination from 1p to 1pound. That would be nice. Maybe someday, I will have all of them.
But anyway, like I was saying, besides flirting with the Queen, I also fell in love with Indian stamps. I think that started with the triangular Indian stamp I received one day. Till then, the only triangular stamps I knew of were those of Mongolia. It seemed like Mongolia only came out with triangular stamps (and I ended up giving almost all of them away in exchange for other stamps). Now, I have a fairly good Indian collection, with one rare 1931 stamp (there is some history associated with it, which I no longer remember).
So the thing is, I was going through my collection, and I saw all these different pictures of people, animals, places and political events connected to India, and a few celebrating people and events unrelated to us, say for e.g. the Independence of Namibia!! And it was almost as if bits and pieces of the history of India was coming alive. Goosepimple is the word. Anyway, the moment passed and I was back to watching the replay of the Real Madrid-Barcelona match.
The following day, night rather, I was lying on my bed reading Walden, when from between the pages of the book, two pieces of paper fell to the ground. I picked them up, and abracadabra, to my pleasant surprise, I discovered that they were two Portugese stamps. How wonderful that a marvellous book I bought from a second hand bookshop for a paltry sum held within its pages two orphaned stamps looking for a collector.
Well, at least I will look at it that way.