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It's philately that defines his life and passion

Isha Arora, Jun 11, 2014, DHNS : 21:02 IST

Stamp Collection

My dear Bhatia, I am now in Zambia on UN mission till 27th August....” reads the postcard on the first day cover of ‘Victoria Falls from Livingstone Island’ dated 7 August 1965.

It was from a penfriend, whom Rajkumar Bhatia never met, nor even remembers his name correctly.

As the misty-eyed septuagenarian leafs through the memories of his past, he gushes about his love for philately, a hobby that whet his curiosity during his youth, and continues to be a lifestyle choice even in his 70s.

In the stark background of his small studio in Laxmi Nagar, a newspaper cut-out of Sachin Tendulkar stands out. Hailing from Amritsar, Bhatia was transferred to a pharmaceutical firm in Delhi in 1987. He fondly recaptures, “My office was almost right next to the post office on Albert Road in Amritsar.

It gave me a chance to give a fresh start to my hobby of collecting stamps. I had lost touch with it after marriage.”

“Its summer vacation time, and my grandchildren have been asking me to visit them,” says Bhatia, with a sense of affection in his tone. But strangely, it is because of his passion for collecting and distributing stamps, Bhatia chooses to live away from his family, all alone in Delhi.

“After I retired in 2003, I didn’t leave my room here in Laxmi Nagar. Now, my hobby sustains my interest and finances, both.”

Though now he is not in touch with any of his penfriends, he still remembers how he sent them stamps over the years. “At times we exchanged greetings. I remember explaining to them about our festivals like Diwali. We were so curious to know about ‘the world outside our world’”, says the enthusiastic stamp collector. “Had it not been for my interest in stamps, I might have felt irritated or lonely when I was transferred here.

I didn’t choose to go back to Amritsar because there are more that 250 stamp collectors in the three clubs I am a part of in Delhi. I can’t find the same level of interest in Amritsar,” says the philatelist indulgently looking over his albums of waterfalls and athletes’ stamps, from across the world.

When he intermittently throws up questions like, “Do you know Gandhiji’s stamp from 1948 which was marked at Rs 10 at face value, how much does it sell for now?”, he is subtly trying to indulge you in his hobby. For the curious ones, a strip of that stamp now sells at about Rs 30,000.

If you happen to catch up with Bhatia, you will be lucky to gain a quick course in philately as he excitedly keeps on sharing facts such as “India has released three scented stamps till date, that of Chandan, Jasmine and Rose. Usually the Department of Post issues stamps posthumously, but they did bring out one for the Master Blaster Sachin in the year 2013.” How passion feeds our soul! It’s palpable in Rajkumar’s presence.

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