Its youthful members might have by no means posted a letter. Yet, the 65-year-old South India Philatelists’ Association, Chennai, stays vibrant with collectors who have fun the tales each stamp tells

Its youthful members might have by no means posted a letter. Yet, the 65-year-old South India Philatelists’ Association, Chennai, stays vibrant with collectors who have fun the tales each stamp tells

For a short hour on a searing May morning I’m transported to deepest Africa, with out ever leaving Chennai. Sitting in the 1900-built Electric Theatre, amongst the first cinema homes in South India and now dwelling of the Philatelic Bureau, which flanks Anna Road Post Office, I journey to Biafra, as soon as a secessionist state in Nigeria.

Rolands Nelson, a 76-year-old retired Chief Engineer from the Highways Department, who collects stamps of international locations that now not exist, showcases his assortment of Biafra in a presentation — amongst them, stamps of an Igbo mom and youngster and a decapitated physique highlighting the civilian bloodbath – holding forth on Biafra’s transient time as an impartial nation between 1967 and 1970.

G Rammohan, an Indian Railways engineer who helped rebuild Nigeria after the civil struggle that adopted, ornaments the speak together with his experiences. A presentation by G Anil Reddy on stamps of the United Nations issued concurrently in Geneva, New York and Vienna, and the newest stamps issued by the Indian Department of Posts, concludes with the introduction of new members, who’ve signed up from so far as Thiruvananthapuram and Tiruchi, ending with a spherical of heat hellos to Satyanarayana Murthy who’s visiting from Tirupati.

Members of the South India Philatelists’ Association outside the Philatelic Bureau, Anna Road

Members of the South India Philatelists’ Association exterior the Philatelic Bureau, Anna Road
| Photo Credit: M VEDHAN

Here, on this previous white and red-trim constructing fronted by a purple cast-iron pillar field of the Travancore Anchal, is the place the members of the South India Philatelists’ Association (SIPA) meet on the second Sunday of each month. Before cellphones, the solely reminder for the scheduled meet was an announcement in The Hindu classifieds.

“SIPA is affiliated with the Philatelic Congress of India and was began by 5 eager stamp collectors of Madras on December 30, 1956,” says Mahesh Parekh, an optician and the secretary, SIPA. “Within six months SIPA designed and issued a First Day Cover for the Centenary of the First War of Indian Independence (1857). It is now gearing as much as host a national-level exhibition at Olympia Tech Park, Guindy, between August 13 and 15.”

SIPA has introduced out many particular covers to create consciousness. Mahesh himself collects postal cancellations from 1854-1874, with a concentrate on Aden and Singapore, each British colonies then. G Amarchand, president, SIPA, has amongst his assortment the very uncommon Red Scinde Dawk, issued in 1852.

Encouragement for SIPA, which has 600 members, with a life membership costing ₹2,500 and no age restrict, has been aplenty from successive Chief Postmasters General of the Tamil Nadu circle, whether or not for weekly exhibitions at the bureau or contests and summer time workshops for varsity youngsters.

Stamps on Queen Elizabeth II from the collection of G Anil Reddy, vice-president, SIPA

Stamps on Queen Elizabeth II from the assortment of G Anil Reddy, vice-president, SIPA
| Photo Credit: R Ravindran

Stamp gathering stands at the crossroads of historical past, nostalgia, magnificence and particular person ardour. It is also a passport to a extra romantic, pre-digital life.

Says Nelson, vice-president, SIPA, who was raised in Pasumalai, a suburb of Madurai. “I began gathering matchbox labels. They had been obtainable in lots as Sivakasi, the firecracker and match hub, was shut by. My consideration turned to stamps when an uncle despatched me a packet that had 100 from throughout the world. Some of these international locations don’t exist now.”

While most philatelists start with gathering stamps the conventional method, ie country-wise, they develop into being thematic collectors. “Collecting thematically is less complicated on the purse,” says Nelson, who, in step with his occupation, has collected stamps on roads and bridges. “My favourites are the ones on the Sydney Harbour Bridge in several denominations. Issued in 1932, I began searching for them 50 years later and it took me two years to get the entire lot. Now each two-three years I construct a brand new theme.”

It is a love he has handed on to his teenaged grand-daughters who now take part in exhibitions; considerably unusual as philately largely stays a male protect.

Searching for the Mahatma

Mahatma Gandhi is a thematic favorite. “He is honoured by over a 100 international locations. There are Gandhi stamps used on first flight covers, on covers marking the first moon touchdown, even one from Burkino Faso and on a canopy from an Arctic base station, whose submit workplace was on a slow-moving glacier — I discovered the non permanent nature of this fascinating, ” says Nikhil Mundra, 33, a technique skilled, who collects solely stamps on Gandhi.

Nikhil has the first stamp issued on Gandhi by India in 1948 and was drawn to gathering these as a result of “I worth concord. I’ve made buddies and gained quizzes because of my fascination with the Mahatma. It’s each edutainment and creativity”.

Anil, vice-president, SIPA, additionally has a uncommon Gandhi stamp, though he additionally collects stamps of British India 1854-1947, Great Britain and joint points. “I not too long ago gained a Large silver in Bangkok for my stamp assortment with holograms. The cowl from the Gandhi assortment is exclusive as the slogan cancellation was issued just for someday. ‘Communal concord will save Gandhiji’ was issued in English, Hindi and Urdu. I’m maybe the just one to have the Urdu model. It was issued throughout his quick for communal concord,” he says.

Philatelist Anil Reddy

Philatelist Anil Reddy
| Photo Credit: R Ravindran

His meticulously maintained stockbooks are well-known, though he laughs: “as soon as we take away them for exhibitions it takes some time to get them organised once more”.

“It’s a forensic train,” says long-time collector and lawyer Vikram Raghavan. “It calls for nice reserves of self-discipline, endurance and, typically, cash.” Vikram, who has been gathering since he was at school, says “most are a fan of the 1854 subject, particularly the 4 anna stamp, though there are rather a lot of forgeries and that’s half of the problem of gathering it. It prices extra whether it is nonetheless on the envelope because it means it has travelled someplace and that offers rise to a complete new department of gathering — used postal historical past. Serious gathering started solely in the Eighties. And you even have Cinderella stamp collectors”.

A portrait of struggle

Vikram collects stamps that hint historic occasions — corresponding to these utilized by the Allies after the fall of Berlin. “They minimize out the swastika from the Nazi-era stamps and issued them. Similarly, I’ve one from Mosul the place previous Ottoman empire stamps had been utilized by the British Field Post Offices when it grew to become half of British Mesopotamia after the First World War. In a method it led to my curiosity in worldwide legislation.”

A selection from Vikram Raghavan’s collection

A variety from Vikram Raghavan’s assortment
| Photo Credit: Ramu Srinivasa

While Vikram has constructed his assortment largely by exchanging and harvesting stamps off envelopes, many others look to on-line marketplaces corresponding to eBay guided by that bible of philatelists, the Stanley Gibbons stamp catalogue.

Bengaluru-based Ramu Srinivasa is amongst the only a few Indians who’s a Fellow of the Royal Philatelic Society London, the oldest in the world. His inheritance of stamps from his grand-uncle, a station grasp in Rangoon, set him off on a life-long love. “I’ve amongst the largest assortment of stamps on birds, practically 15,000, from throughout the world,” he says.

The HR skilled has transformed the floor ground of his home to inventory 5,000 books and magazines printed since 1854. Ramu who additionally holds a 1911 airmail assortment, gained gold at Europex 2019 for his assortment of rocket mail stamps; a weird technique of utilizing a rocket to ship mail. Keeping with the instances, Ramu additionally owns an NFT of the British Guiana 1c Magenta. Considered the world’s rarest stamp with just one specimen identified to exist — it offered for over $8 million final yr. The barely inch-sized piece of darkish purple, insignificant maybe to the non-collector, was then thrown open to fractional possession.

What then about stamps holds this grand attract? Says Vikram, “They current in a microcosm, footage of a fast-changing world.”

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