Masterpieces from the Olympics
Creative The 2008 Olympic stamps of India.
When one thinks of starting a hobby, the first items that come to mind are invariably stamps and coins. This is exactly what happened to Jagannath Mani when he was a young boy.
A childhood friend once gifted him a stamp book, which was the perfect start to his collection. What really got him going, however, was a visit to a philatelic exhibition in 1997 — it triggered his passion for collecting solely Olympic-themed stamps from all over the world. With the help of his friends, family and mentors, Jagannath got deeply involved with his collection and today, he has managed to collect over 10,000 stamps, dated from 1886 to 2012.
Ask him why he zeroed in on Olympic-themed stamps, and he says, “I have always been keenly interested in sports, especially athletics. Though I couldn’t take it up as a career, I felt I could channelise this passion into collecting stamps that revolve around sports. An exhibition I had gone to in ‘97 really inspired me and I knew it would be difficult to start something like this — but definitely not impossible.”
His collection includes some of the very first stamps of the Olympic Games, dated 1886 and with a picture of ancient gods and goddesses, athletic training and ancient runes.
Interestingly, there are only 12 of those stamps available in India and Jagannath has eight of them with him.
“These are my most prized and some of my favourites as well. Someday, I do wish to complete the collection by getting all 12 of those stamps,” he gushes.
Over the years, Jagannath has also gained lot of interesting snippets about the history of the stamps as well. When it comes to Indian stamps of the Olympics, Jagannath, has a good range of items in varying sizes and designs released by the Indian post.
“Even though India took part in the Olympics only in the year 1900 and as an independent nation from 1948, it issued its first Olympic-themed stamp in 1968, more than 70 years after the modern games started,” he shares.
The other aspect of the collection that interests Jagannath is the art of letter-writing. Having made friends all over the world, Jagannath has built a good rapport with most of his ‘pen pals’, who share a similar interest.
“Sending a written letter abroad is not only time consuming but also expensive and one will never know if the letter will reach at all. So, one can’t really ignore the power of the internet. But that has not stopped me from writing letters. I make sure that I write at least twice a year to most of my friends and many of them send me stamps along with the post,” he says.
Starting a hobby like this may seem easy but the real challenge lies in maintaining each of the stamps. Jagannath says maintaining the collection is very time consuming. While he keeps most of them in a stamp book, there are some which he mounts on a special frame.
“The hobby has become an expensive affair and only those really passionate about it really pursue it,” he says.
With the Olympic Games starting soon, Jagannath plans to catch the games on television; but, he is disappointed about one thing. “This is the first time the
Indian government has not issued an Olympic stamp, which is really disheartening because all other countries have. But I haven’t lost hope yet because there is still time for the Olympics and you never know,” he says, hopefully.
More than anything, it is the work that goes into designing each of these stamps that attracts Jagannath the most.
“Each one of them is like a miniature masterpiece and every time I look at them, it’s like they are telling me a different story,” he sums up.