Thursday, July 5, 2018

The World of Stamps

The greatest fun activity in the childhood years after playing and reading was the hobby of collecting stamps. I do not exactly remember at what age I was fascinated by stamps. The earliest recollection goes back to the early school days perhaps in Class III or IV when every mail that landed at home in an envelope with a stamp pasted drew the immediate attention. Next, the tedious process of removing it with dexterity to ensure that it does not get damaged in the process was followed. A swab of cotton dipped in water was carefully applied around the edges of the stamp till the dried glue softened and the stamp was set free eventually. Sometimes heartbreak followed as the stamp was either damaged or destroyed in the process. It would be allowed to dry and then stored in the file and finally find a place the 'Stamp Album' that I possess till date, though has seldom seen the light of the day for many years.

The hobby, I vividly remember also involved spending the precious rupee or two to buy from the stationery shops some rare stamps that were either triangular or in diamond shapes. The stamps of certain countries gave an insight about the leaders, the flora and fauna, a glimpse of the culture and historical events. One of the rare possessions was the First Day Cover( Normally issued on the day of release of the stamp) with Gandhiji's picture released in 1948 that my father handed me over. I was told that it had a value worth a few hundred rupees, but that was more of an academic interest. I was lured into buying many more First Day Covers from the Postal van that would come close to my house every day to sell the postal stationery, stamps, envelopes etc. Some of the notable collections include the First Day Cover issued by the Post and Telegraph department on the death of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in 1963 and the first landing on the moon in 1969.

In today's digital world this pursuit is a futile one but on a personal level, I can vouch that the learnings that followed from this hobby were phenomenal. I would play the game of locating the countries on the world map and learning about their capitals and currencies with my friends and sometimes with cousins visiting us on vacations. I got into the habit of reading titbits of information related to information on the stamps from dictionaries and encyclopaedia, by making regular trips to the Delhi Public Library not far from my home.

Some of the greatest people in the world have been avid stamp collectors of their time and some notable few include King George V and Queen Elizabeth II of England, King Farouk I of Egypt, Prince Rainier III of Monaco and President Franklin D Roosevelt of USA. No surprise that it was considered to be a princely hobby. Smithsonian Institute Library in the USA, Singapore Philately Museum and National Philatelic Museum in Delhi boast of some of the biggest and rarest collections of the stamps in the world.

Stamps have now become a part of a bygone era especially in the digital world where the new norm of communications is the email, and text messages. Even the art of writing is slowly dying and digital books and Kindle have replaced the conventional books. The world of stamps will still continue to charm aficionados from across the world in times to come

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