Unfolding the love for paper

Unique Hobbies

Unfolding the love for paper

There are plenty of seemingly random objects that people like to collect — keychains, bookmarks, pencils, badges, knives, etc. But whether there is a formal name given to the hobby or not, the story and passion with which the collection grows is what makes it a journey worth mapping.

“I’m so interested in paper napkins that even without opening the packet, I can just picture what the entire print looks like at first glance,” says 47-year-old Rajeshri Srikant, who has been collecting
paper napkins of different sizes, colours and shapes for over 15 years.

Her collection is quite a varied one — there are bright-coloured napkins, sunflowers on some, eco-friendly ones, floral prints, a dozen Christmas-related prints, one that looks like a dainty lady’s
handkerchief and another that looks like egg yolk.

They are also from all around the world — Germany, Sweden and Japan among others.
“I love prints and more so, I was very particular about paper not being wasted. It started with that. I was very economical and made sure that my kids use both sides of any paper.

Then, when I started to travel, I got intrigued by napkins. It’s been a long journey since and I now have over 50 sets of paper napkins in stripes, florals, prints and solids,” she reminisces.

While there have been no recent additions to the collection for lack of travel, she is positive that she will
refocus and look for new designs this year.

“The kinds of napkins that we see in India are plain or have some basic prints. Abroad, they really take care and in fact, the napkin, or ‘serviette’ as they call it, is actually more predominant than the cutlery itself. I was quite impressed by that and when I went to Europe, I just went looking for napkins in every shop,” laughs Rajeshri, who also has a fairly large collection of candles that she has accumulated over a decade.

In trying to find a rationale to her obsession, the one reason she fathoms is that being a leather exporter by profession, creativity, design and colours are already in her mind.

She says, “I have a personal liking for contrast in my life and that comes through in the napkins. That’s probably why I like black and white or really bright ones. It’s just that some designs are so fabulous and I’ve never seen anything like it — like my first ever napkin which was a floral print from Germany.”

She points out an interesting phenomenon that only a collector would notice.

“In some countries abroad, there are paper napkin designers and you can see their signatures on each one. It’s more than just a napkin.

They don’t do it just for the heck of it,” she explains.

According to her, there is a market for good napkins in India and we need to start improvising on our designs.

“Every Indian woman likes to display her cutlery and a paper napkin is part of it. A lot of people don’t pay too much heed to it because after using it, one throws it away.”
What is funny is that though her collection involves an item that is ideally made to be used, there is no real trade-off for her.

“My children always ask me to use my napkins, but I can’t do it. Sometimes, I do use the napkins economically. I cut it into half and make sure I at least have one piece from the packet for my collection.

But it’s essentially a hobby and my only plan is to keep adding to it,” she wraps up with a smile.

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