Sunday, December 13, 2009

STAMPED ON MY MEMORY

My elder daughter has to do a class project on stamp-collection, and we were sadly unable to find any in the house. Finally, we had a kind friend who procured some stamps of foreign countries from the Post Office. At a cost, of course.

When we were young, we went through various 'collection-crazy' phases - from stamps to coins and even matchbox covers (where it helped that my Baba was a heavy smoker and enthusiastic contributer to the cause).

Stamp collection was a hobby much-lauded by grown-ups because it was supposed to be an educational pastime. Many kids were budding philatelists, including yours truly. One cousin, coming from a more affluent family, had a proper stamp-album with sections on different countries, ready-cut pieces of special adhesive to stick the stamps therein, and whole sets of stamps purchased at a price from post-offices.

My collection was more humble, in a used school-notebook. The stamps were painstakingly collected, one-at-a-time, off torn envelopes and air-mail covers, and stuck with ordinary gum but extra-ordinary care.

I had a lot of the usual brown 25 paise Gandhiji-stamps, and another lot of one-penny (or was it five?) pastel-Queen Elizabeth stamps of England. Indian stamps dominated the album (but of course), but there were quite a few interesting ones from foreign shores, taken from letters mailed by relations abroad, or from abandoned stamp-collections of uncles and older cousins. There were triangular, colourful stamps from Bhutan and Nepal, functional-looking stamps from the glamorous U.S.A, and stamps where the letters and numbers were in foreign languages.

The true erudite philatelist would rather have one rare stamp ( a Penny Black, say) than a hundred humdrum ones. But we were philistines rather than philatelists, and for us quantity mattered as much as, if not more than, quality. So, collections were fiercely guarded and frequently counted. Exchanging stamps was a serious and competitive business, much like the Stock Exchange today.

Bright, bold, silent but eloquent, the stamps united the world in my grubby little stamp-book. In the midst of shifting from house to house, and from city to city, somewhere I have lost it. But it is a loss that I deeply regret. Because I believe although I collected stamps with a zeal as a child, I would have learnt a lot more by studying them now as an adult. But those tiny messengers of diversity and variety - speaking of lands far away and peoples long ago - have been forever lost in transit.

WHAT DID YOU COLLECT WHEN YOU WERE A CHILD?

13 comments:

seana said...

It's funny, because stamp collecting was one of those things foisted upon me by adults. In theory, it seemed interesting, but in practice, tedious. I did have a stamp album as your cousin did, but I don't think I got very far with it.

In retrospect, I think stamp collecting 'as it is done' put far too much pressure on my organizationally deficient brain. I liked stamps, I liked the charmed "first day covers", which I don't see much in evidence now, but the arranging and categorizing was very far beyond me, as would still be true now. My aunt, who was always passionate for her nieces to enjoy some of the pleasures of her youth was much behind this idea, and used to send me great stamps from the psychologist's office where she worked. I enjoyed them, but always felt a sort of guilt and pressure around going much beyond just looking at them.

In a way, the whole enterprise reminds me a bit of butterfly collecting. Something that has a life and movement gets pinned down into a lifeless inert state.

Ugich Konitari said...

In my time (one before yours), there was even some form of barter/exchange of stamps. And some were greatly guarded and valued and were worth several of some other ordinary ones. I dont remember permanently sticking the stamps in the books though. And pen-friends from foreign countries was very popular at that time, and a great source of stamps too.

Hobo ........ ........ ........ said...

I have seen old used stamps opposite VT station within the market lane if I remember correctly.

Kavi said...

It was such a famous hobby. Almost everybody had stamp collecting and coin collecting as a hobby on their resumes !

And i wonder where all those philatelists and numismatists have been ?

I had my own album as well. which i plan to hunt down from the attic. Sometime !

Shaswati said...

OF course I used to collect stamps - and the best part is I still have the huge album with those various stamps from vary many countries! I prize it a lot and keep it safely. Used to collect bust tickets at one point of time - don't know why and not to forget all the Delhi Asiad coins. :)

Rajesh said...

Lovely post.

As a child I used to collect stamps, match box covers. The stamps collection is still going on so far. But it has now become a expensive hobby. For many it is no longer hobby and has become a means to earn money.

miladawley said...

nice~..................................................

Aleta said...

OH my! What didn't I collect? Let's see... When I was little, I collected marbles. That one, I can attribute to my brother, because he started the marble collection. I also collected small porcelain animals and dolls of course. When I was a teen, I collected pewter figurines and unicorns. As a young adult, it was angels.... Now, I collect glass paper weights (a tradition carried down the line from my grandmother, to my Mom and now, to me as well).

I also like to collect crystal pieces from places we've vacationed (skyline of New York, Golden Gate bridge crystal from California, Bear crystal while we were in Alaska and saw black bears, etc.)

I definitely have the "collect this" gene from my Dad. He loves to collect things from very old coins to a massive, HUGE stamp collection!

SloganMurugan said...

I collected ads. Cut them out from newspapers and magazines and saved them.

Miss M said...

For quite some time I collected stamps and coins. And I have quite a collection I must say. It started with my mom actually, who had this HUGE scrapbook with soooo many stamps in them. I carried on with this hobby in school but now except for Nine West shoes and Charles & Keith bags, I don't quite 'collect' anything else! :D

Peter Rozovsky said...

Stamp collecting is often foisted on children, I think, the way it was foisted on Seana. I suspect that if I resumed the hobby now, as an adult, I'd never manage the detailed work of sorting stamps, of carefully removing them from enevelopes from envelopes and placing them on glassine hinges, because I'd be too busy dreaming idly about the no-longer extant countries that issued the stamps that would interest me most.
==============
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

Peter Rozovsky said...

Stamp collecting is often foisted on children, I think, the way it was foisted on Seana. I suspect that if I resumed the hobby now, as an adult, I'd never manage the detailed work of sorting stamps, of carefully removing them from enevelopes from envelopes and placing them on glassine hinges, because I'd be too busy dreaming idly about the no-longer extant countries that issued the stamps that would interest me most.
==============
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

lady said...

Hey I had a stamp collection too... even joined some club which would send me stamps from various countries to collect. I still have them somewhere.
N then I began to collect those little rubber covers on the insides of Limca N Gold Spot bottle caps. Some had Disney cartoons on them n then some had caricatures of the Indian Cricket Team on them. Ur piece just took me back to those days when drinking a bottle of Gold-Spot meant so much because I got to add one more to my collection! Wish our kids found pleasure in such little things...