A paper trail of history

Unique hobbies

A paper trail of history

What’s different about Vishal George Palliyathu’s collection of stamps is that it revolves around Christmas and everything that is associated with it. Pointing out that there’s a story in every stamp, Vishal says that he has been keeping at this hobby for a while now and has collected about 250 stamps, related to Christmas, under about 6,000 themes.

An IT professional, Vishal began his hobby in school but it was much later that he began collecting stamps under specific themes. “My first collection started when I was in school and was centered around countries. My idea back then was to collect as many stamps from as many different countries as possible. But I soon lost interest in it. That’s when I chanced upon the idea of a topical collection. Christmas is a popular theme for topical collection among philatelists and there’s a storytelling perspective to it,” explains Vishal.

Vishal feels his hobby is an ideal break from his hectic work schedule. “It’s a good way of spending time away from the television and the fast pace of work. Collecting stamps under a particular theme gives you the freedom to learn, understand and explore the history, heritage and legacy of a country. You also tend to appreciate the context in which a particular theme is celebrated,” says Vishal.

The stamps are maintained in a special album. “The stamps are fragile and have a soft texture. The attractive colour pattern sometimes causes people to touch them. I do let people look at the album but at the same time, I also ask them to handle it with care,” says Vishal with a smile. 

It’s not easy to come by stamps anymore, thanks to emails, SMS and other forms of modern communication that have taken over, says Vishal. “There was a time when stamps and posts where inextricably interlinked with communication. Today, the relevance of letters and stamps have diminished. The only way to get these stamps is to exchange them with people who have the same hobby or rely on generous friends, who will help add to the collection,” adds Vishal.

Vishal has lost count of the number of countries he has procured stamps from. Some of the rare stamps in his collection are from Cook Islands, Saint Lucia, Guyana, Dominica, Samoa, Togo, Barbuda, Turks and Caicos Islands, Grenada, Antigua and Grenadines, just to mention a few. There are a few stamps that Vishal is particularly fond of and has taken a lot of trouble to get.

“The ‘First Day Cover’ (FDC) are stamps issued from the post office on a postcard or cover, with a pictorial cancellation. It is difficult to get an FDC and it is even more difficult to get stamps based on a theme. My collection includes FDCs from Cook Islands, Nieve, Turks and Caicos. I also have stamps from a few Islamic countries. For instance, Umm al-Quwain issued a series of stamps based on the virgin birth from paintings by Albrecht Dürer and Adriaen Isenbrandt. I have the entire series with me,” he says.

Drawing attention to misconceptions of people around certain places, Vishal adds that it was not until he began collecting stamps from Communist countries, did he realise that they have an exhaustive collection of stamps based on Christmas. “The erstwhile USSR and DPR Korea have a range of stamps that celebrate the season’s theme in a big way,”he says.

Believing that he can still increase the volume of his collection, Vishal says, “Christmas is a unique theme. Most of the stamps here depict artwork by the Renaissance painters, introduce people to the masters and their work at large. Their narration unravels stories of mystery and deep faith.”  

(Vishal can be reached on vishalgeorge­@in.ibm.com)

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