The key to her life

The key to her life

Samreen Gafoor’s fascination with keycards began at the age of six. The 15-year-old, who has travelled extensively, is the proud owner of over 80 keycards. The student of Bishop Cotton Girls’ School has keycards from India, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Chicago, Shanghai among a host of other places. “Actually a lot of them are from the hotels of these places. As a family, we make it a point to go on a vacation every six months. That way I’m lucky that I can add to my collection frequently,” she says. 

Recalling how she started off, Samreen says, “The first one I got was from Malaysia which has my name on it. I was a kid back then and got excited to see a keycard with my name on it. So I told my parents to keep it even though they didn’t think much of it. But then after every holiday, I would keep the keycard carefully. That’s when they started taking my hobby seriously. In fact, the minute my dad gets back from a trip, I ask him if he has brought me a keycard.” 

Any relative or friend visiting the family loves looking at the keycards. In fact, her love for keycards is so popular that the members of her extended family ensure that they bring her back some when they travel. Pointing out to her collection, she smiles, “Whenever anyone travels, the first thing they do on returning is give me the keycard of the hotel they stayed in. My friends do the same.” 

So which are her favourites? “Every keycard is special to me. But the ones from Westin Hotel in Gurgaon, The Atlantis in Dubai, Taj Mahal Hotel in Delhi and Ramada in Doha stand out. Actually, I could go on and on,” she says. Samreen, who has a keen interest in art, says that she looks for keycards with intricate art work. Pointing out the difference between her first few keycards and the current ones, Samreen says, “I have noticed that a lot of effort goes into each one. These days, the hotels like to leave a mark on the keycards. For instance, either a photograph of the hotel or a work from it is put on the keycards. Some have paintings on them. A lot of effort goes into making them attractive. They are really worth keeping.” 

She further adds, “Some hotels keep changing the designs every few months.” But her biggest disappointment is when she lands at a hotel which doesn’t use keycards. “The first thought that crosses my mind then is ‘how will I add to my collection?’ Thankfully, the metallic and plastic keys are slowly and surely getting phased out,” she says. Samreen points out that her unusual hobby has given her a chance to map her journey. “I remember the places I have been to and learn about them in the process too,” she says. However, she rues that she has not come across anyone else who has a similar interest. “I really wish I knew others who have the same hobby. It would be great to exchange,” she says. 

So how does she maintain her large collection? “It actually doesn’t take that much effort because they fit perfectly into a visiting card holder. But before I got this idea, it was quite tough as I used to keep them all in a box,” she says. While many youngsters grow out of their hobbies, Samreen makes sure that the collection, she has had for over ten years, only grows. “Having pursued the hobby for so long, I know that I’m going to be a collector of keycards for a long time to come. Although I don’t have anything in particular that I would like to add to the collection, I just pay attention to whatever comes my way,” she wraps up.  

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