Unique collection of desk flags used by diplomats

V Raghavendran soon hopes to have the colours of all countries recognised by the United Nations

A 45-year-old Bengalurean has collected desk flags from 143 foreign missions, and is eager to get more.

V Raghavendran, a resident of Raghava Nagar near Mysore Road, got interested in flags when he was watching the telecast of the 1988 Olympics in Seoul. “I observed that the flag bearers were holding big flags during the inaugural ceremony. We had a black and white TV at home and I didn’t know the exact colours of the flags then. So I just wrote down the names of the countries participating in the Olympics.” It was only after watching BBC News on a colour TV that he got familiar with the flags. He started his collection with a small US flag, sent to him by a childhood friend.

“In 2015, a Bangladeshi came to meet me at the hospital after learning about my hip joint replacement. She wanted to seek help to consult my doctor for her nephew’s treatment. She sent me a cloth flag,” he says. 

Raghavendran’s collection grew as his friends brought back flags from their trips abroad. “Once I started collecting flags, my interest veered towards desk and table flags, used only in diplomatic missions during bilateral meetings. They keep two small flags on the table when signing any important agreement,” he says. After learning about these miniature flags, he approached embassies, consulates, high commissions, and honorary consulates of all the 197 countries recognised by the United Nations.

“My collection of desk flags began in November 2016 and my first one was from New Zealand,” he says. With diplomatic missions working with fewer staff and few international flights operating, his collection has slowed down.

The most challenging flags to get were from North Korea, Palestine, Hong Kong, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. “I have waited for two to three years to get desk flags of some countries.” After learning that Raghavendran has mobility problems, heads of diplomatic missions of five countries — Costa Rica, Malaysia, El Salvador, Mali and Palau — visited him at his house and gave him their flags. 

“Collecting flags from some countries which don’t have diplomatic missions in India has been difficult. These include Cameroon, Mauritania, Eswatini, Gambia, Burundi, and Turkmenistan,” he says. Raghavendran is a member of vexillological associations in many countries. Vexillology is the study of flags and their symbolism.

“I plan to enter my collection in all world record books in India,” he says. Raghavendran is CEO of HSVJ Foundation and a musician trained in Karnatic music. “I want to travel and give vocal concerts and inspire others to take up flag collection,” he sums up.

Raghavendran can be reached at raghavendran24@rediffmail.com.