Guardian of the past

Guardian of the past

When kids his age are glued to computer screens or mobile phones, Joseph Jose Ottaplackal prefers to stroll down memory lane. The student of Bethany High, who just finished his tenth standard board exams, has been collecting antiques since a very young age.

"I used to listen to the radio a lot. Seeing this, my dad's friend gave me a cassette player but unfortunately, I didn't have any cassettes. One day I found a lot of cassettes among my dad's old stuff and from there onwards, I started collecting them, followed by other things like pens and watches," he says.

"My pen collection is what really kicked off this interest in collecting antiques in me. In fifth standard, we were introduced to pens. I was fascinated by the fountain pen. After I came back home from school that day, I searched in all the cupboards to lay my hands on more pens. I started collecting pens from then onwards," he says earnestly.

Now Joseph has in his collection things which are quite alien to children of his age. There are ITI telephones and a kerosene lamp; sourced from his grandfather's estate in Mangalore during a renovation; a 1980s Raynox projector, a punch card; the earliest form of storing binary data; and so on.

"One of my favourites is an HMT Kohinoor Watch, which has been in the family for four generations. It was kept in some remote corner of the garage but I was intrigued by the watch that worked by manual winding - I had never seen anything like that before. Then there is a gold-plated 17-jewel movement Oris watch, which was given to me by my uncle's friend. I also treasure the Atlas on occidental history my uncle gave me last year. I am french student at school and he assumed I was proficient in the language (which I am not, by the way). But the book is remarkable," he says, adding that he also has a bunch of first-print books dating to the 1950s, by the hunting legends Jim Corbett and Kenneth Anderson.

Joseph says that only one thing has been purchased in the entire collection; a Polydor Record he bought for Rs 450. All the other things were gifted to him or were something he stumbled upon by accident.

"My room has become like a walk-in museum, people come in to see my collection all the time. But it is quite sad to see that people do not appreciate the value of old things. You can see the difference in quality. There is some soul and passion that has gone into making these things," he rues.

Reactions of loved ones differ. His parents are encouraging and supportive while his sister is frequently amazed. "She is very young and doesn't even know how to use a keypad phone. When she saw a typewriter, she was like 'Oh my God, is this an old computer?'. My friends think its awe-inspiring but somewhat weird at the same time," he says with a laugh, adding that he plans to keep adding to this collection.

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