Its youthful members might have by no means posted a letter. But, the 65-year-old South India Philatelists’ Affiliation, Chennai, stays vibrant with collectors who have fun the tales each stamp tells
For a short hour on a searing Might morning I’m transported to deepest Africa, with out ever leaving Chennai. Sitting within the 1900-built Electrical Theatre, among the many first cinema homes in South India and now residence of the Philatelic Bureau, which flanks Anna Street Publish Workplace, I journey to Biafra, as soon as a secessionist state in Nigeria.
Rolands Nelson, a 76-year-old retired Chief Engineer from the Highways Division, who collects stamps of nations that now not exist, showcases his assortment of Biafra in a presentation — amongst them, stamps of an Igbo mom and little one and a decapitated physique highlighting the civilian bloodbath – holding forth on Biafra’s temporary 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, adorns the discuss 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 Division of Posts, concludes with the introduction of recent 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’ Affiliation exterior the Philatelic Bureau, Anna Street
| Photograph Credit score: M VEDHAN
Right here, on this previous white and red-trim constructing fronted by a pink cast-iron pillar field of the Travancore Anchal, is the place the members of the South India Philatelists’ Affiliation (SIPA) meet on the second Sunday of each month. Earlier than cell phones, the one 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. “Inside six months SIPA designed and issued a First Day Cowl for the Centenary of the First Struggle of Indian Independence (1857). It’s 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 give attention to Aden and Singapore, each British colonies then. G Amarchand, president, SIPA, has amongst his assortment the very uncommon Crimson 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 Common of the Tamil Nadu circle, whether or not for weekly exhibitions on the bureau or contests and summer time workshops for college kids.
Stamps on Queen Elizabeth II from the gathering of G Anil Reddy, vice-president, SIPA
| Photograph Credit score: R Ravindran
Stamp amassing stands on 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 amassing matchbox labels. They have been accessible in a lot 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 everywhere in the world. A few of these international locations don’t exist now.”
Whereas most philatelists start with amassing stamps the normal method, ie country-wise, they develop into being thematic collectors. “Amassing thematically is less complicated on the purse,” says Nelson, who, in step with his career, has collected stamps on roads and bridges. “My favourites are those on the Sydney Harbour Bridge in numerous denominations. Issued in 1932, I began in search of them 50 years later and it took me two years to get the whole thing. Now each two-three years I construct a brand new theme.”
It’s 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.
Looking for the Mahatma
Mahatma Gandhi is a thematic favorite. “He’s honoured by over a 100 international locations. There are Gandhi stamps used on first flight covers, on covers marking the primary moon touchdown, even one from Burkino Faso and on a canopy from an Arctic base station, whose put up workplace was on a slow-moving glacier — I discovered the momentary nature of this fascinating, ” says Nikhil Mundra, 33, a method skilled, who collects solely stamps on Gandhi.
Nikhil has the primary stamp issued on Gandhi by India in 1948 and was drawn to amassing these as a result of “I worth concord. I’ve made mates and gained quizzes due to 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, Nice Britain and joint points. “I just lately gained a Giant silver in Bangkok for my stamp assortment with holograms. The duvet from the Gandhi assortment is exclusive because the slogan cancellation was issued just for at some point. ‘Communal concord will save Gandhiji’ was issued in English, Hindi and Urdu. I’m maybe the one one to have the Urdu model. It was issued throughout his quick for communal concord,” he says.
Philatelist Anil Reddy
| Photograph Credit score: 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 excellent reserves of self-discipline, endurance and, generally, cash.” Vikram, who has been amassing since he was in class, says “most are a fan of the 1854 difficulty, particularly the 4 anna stamp, though there are a variety of forgeries and that’s a part of the problem of amassing it. It prices extra whether it is nonetheless on the envelope because it means it has travelled someplace and that offers rise to an entire new department of amassing — used postal historical past. Severe amassing started solely within the Eighteen Eighties. And also you even have Cinderella stamp collectors”.
A portrait of struggle
Vikram collects stamps that hint historic occasions — akin to these utilized by the Allies after the autumn of Berlin. “They lower out the swastika from the Nazi-era stamps and issued them. Equally, I’ve one from Mosul the place previous Ottoman empire stamps have been utilized by the British Area Publish Workplaces when it grew to become a part of British Mesopotamia after the First World Struggle. In a method it led to my curiosity in worldwide regulation.”
A range from Vikram Raghavan’s assortment
| Photograph Credit score: Ramu Srinivasa
Whereas Vikram has constructed his assortment largely by exchanging and harvesting stamps off envelopes, many others look to on-line marketplaces akin to eBay guided by that bible of philatelists, the Stanley Gibbons stamp catalogue.
Bengaluru-based Ramu Srinivasa is among the many only a few Indians who’s a Fellow of the Royal Philatelic Society London, the oldest on the planet. His inheritance of stamps from his grand-uncle, a station grasp in Rangoon, set him off on a life-long love. “I’ve among the many largest assortment of stamps on birds, almost 15,000, from internationally,” he says.
The HR skilled has transformed the bottom 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. Conserving with the instances, Ramu additionally owns an NFT of the British Guiana 1c Magenta. Thought of the world’s rarest stamp with just one specimen identified to exist — it bought for over $8 million final yr. The hardly inch-sized piece of darkish pink, 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.”