Striving for recognition

Striving for recognition

I believe philately should be a sporting event so that it can reach out more,” opines Anil Suri, who won a gold medal for his ‘Fiscals of Cochin’ collection, which comprises stamps from the former Indian Princely State of Cochin, at the recently held World Stamp Show New York 2016.

Taking forward his father’s legacy, 60-year-old Suri has been collecting stamps since the past four decades and has been winning gold medals for his rare and exceptional collection which includes stamps from the erstwhile Princely States of Cochin, Jammu and Kashmir, Mysore, Alwar, Kapurthala, and Rampur to name a few.

 “I want this hobby to be recognised. Stamp collection is never about numbers. It’s about what it represents,” he tells Metrolife, pointing out that stamps help one learn more about current affairs apart from politics, history, geography, prominent personalities, national and international events from a time gone by.

 Another philatelist, 81-year-old Arvind Rai Shah however feels that the hobby hasn’t even “remained a hobby in recent years” owing to the younger generation not showing keen interest. “This hobby is diminishing day by day. Today’s generation has got no interest because of exposure from the various forms of media,” says Shah.

 Mumbai-based Sandeep Murjani who has been vigorously collecting special covers (issued on commemorative events) and first flight covers (mail on an inaugural flight, airline or route) of Air India for the last two years says, “One can pass it on as an inheritance if only the children are willing to take care of it; and most of the times, it has been seen that children are not interested. And interest can only be generated when philately is recognised on a larger scale.”

Agrees Suri, and is quick to add that the hobby has lost its sheen due to lack of active participation from the government. “The tradition of philately dates back to more than 100 years. Despite that, the rich tradition has not been promoted or given due recognition by the government or concerned authorities. Which is why the hobby fails to attract youngsters and it has not registered a rise in the last many years. The government has an equal responsibility and should work in this regard.”

Elaborating, Kuldeep
Kumar Sharmaa who collects theme-based stamps including on United Nations and those celebrating women says, “The previous government wasn’t serious about it. It was hardly advertised in newspapers. So, we as passionate individuals meet up and share a lot of information in our philately circles and that is how, I believe we are still able
to collect.”

On how the information about stamps and covers circulates, Murjani adds, “The trick is to be in touch with people from different circles. If I have a friend in Karnataka, he could give me a lead about the launch of a cover, say in Bengaluru. Or if a cover release happens in Mumbai, I will call the person up. So that is how the information circulates.”
“The problem is with creating awareness about the hobby. If there is no direct link to philately, say for instance from one generation to another, the youngsters will never be aware of its seriousness,” mentions Suri.

However, highlighting a brighter side, avid collector and the brain behind StampsofIndia portal, Madhukar Jhingan states that the government has started including philately in their five year plans under their department of post, since the last two five-year plans. Though Suri feels that “a lot still needs to be done”, Jhingan mentions that few occasional advertisements on promoting stamp collection are now being seen in the newspapers, which according to him, is a “positive trend”.

Reportedly, with an eye on furthering sales of collectible stamps to boost revenues, India Post, under the ministry of communications, is soon going to introduce ‘catch them young’ strategy to inculcate an interest about philately among school children by including a chapter on philately in textbooks of children studying in Class 5, 6, or 7. Vadodara-based Prashant Pandya, who is a postal history researcher and runs the Indian Philately Digest — an online portal that lists philatelic events across India believes that this move, if “implemented wisely”, can help the cause.  

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