History at hand

Unique Hobbies

History at hand

It was 25 years ago that CR Srinivasa chanced upon a commemorative coin released as part of the centenary celebrations of former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Fascinated, he decided to have a look at it.

That was the first of many commemorative coins he had and since then there has been no looking back.

Now, every time he gets hold of a coin, the first thing he does is to see if it could go into his collection.

“I’ve got into the habit of looking at both sides of the coin. It’s usually difficult to spot one of these. When a new coin is released, I see how I can get hold of it,” he says.
But it was only after 2007, when he retired, that he took to the hobby seriously.

“I didn’t have the time when I was in service. But now after retirement, I have a lot of time on my hands  to figure out where to get them as well as to do some research on it.” However, since the 66-year-old is not tech-savvy, he says his access to information is limited.

“I am dependent on the newspapers. It’s only from them do I get to know about the release of such coins or for that mater any information. If I miss it, then I don’t know,” says the retired technical officer from the National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL).

Pointing to a coin that was released to commemorate 1,000 years of the Brihadeeswarar Temple in 2010, Srinivasa explains the story behind it. “I recently got to know that it was being circulated in Tamil Nadu. Immediately, I wrote to my brother, who lives there, asking him if he could source it.

But believe it or not, just a few days after that I was at the Venkateshwara Temple in Vyalikaval, where someone had put the same coin for the aarti. As soon as I spotted it, I requested the priest to give it to me and he obliged.”

That’s how Srinivasa has been functioning over the years.

 “Now, when I see a coin even from a distance, I know what kind it is,” he says.
But the challenges for Srinivasa are many. “The biggest problem is that I don’t get to know when a coin is released.

This hobby is similar to that of collecting commemorative stamps which is equally challenging. And since I don’t know others who are into something similar, I just have to keep my eyes and ears open. When I purchase something, I have a look at the coin. I don’t really make an effort to add to my collection,” he says.

Some of the coins that he has are the coin released when Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi passed away, coin marking 200 years of State Bank of India, 150 years of the Indian Postal Service, the birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda, 75 years after the ‘Dandi March’ and coins released during C N Annadurai and Rabindranath Tagore centenary celebrations etc.

Srinivasa’s favourite pastime is showing relatives and friends, who visit him, each of the coins.

Since his collection is limited to 80 coins, Srinivasa says that he does not have a problem maintaining them. But he rues that many youngsters are not interested in pursuing this hobby.

“First of all, nobody knows about these and then, people are not interested,” he says. Although, he has been approached by interested people to part with the coins, Srinivasa, who has pain-stakingly made his collection says, “There is no chance that I will give these away. I will probably pass these on to my children, if they are interested.”

Since Srinivasa has been pursuing the hobby seriously only after retirement, he says that he can’t spend money on purchasing any of the coins.

“In fact, I’ve barely spent anything on the collection. For me, the collection is pricelesss although I wouldn’t be able to estimate its value,” he explains. Although, he wants to display his collection in a temple, he says that he is worried that someone may take a couple of coins away.

“Someone will have to monitor them,” he says. Ask him if his family is interested in it and he says, “Some of them are, but not as much as I am. I find many outsiders very discouraging.”

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