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Sidhartha Roy, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, February 15, 2011
It was a banner outside Pragati Maidan that made Dr Vijay Jain, an orthopaedic at a government hospital, go back home and look for a dusty old album, in which he collected stamps, as a teenager. On Tuesday, Jain was at hall number 8 of Pragati Maidan to visit INDIPEX 2011 -- the world philatelic exhibition -- along with his wife and four-year-old son Vivan.

“My father collected stamps and it is from him that I have inherited the hobby,” Jain said. “I wanted my son, who didn’t know about stamps, to explore them and hopefully, start liking them too,” he added.

The stamp exhibition is being organised by India Post, Government of India, in association with the Philatelic Congress of India. The exhibition showcases thousands of stamps in the competitive category and has stalls selling stamps from several countries, along with India.

Collecting stamps, or philately, was a fairly common hobby for all children growing up in pre-liberalisation India. But with letter writing being a forgotten art and emails being sent across the world in a split second, thanks to the internet, stamp collection is a dying hobby.

That’s why lawyer Jayashree Vishwanatha wanted her daughter, Sugandha, a class VI student of Modern School, Barakhamba Road, to discover the world of stamps. “I have a collection of rare stamps but my daughter hadn’t explored them yet,” she said. “I showed her my collection and it made her curious. At the exhibition, she liked sports-themed stamps and bought a few,” she said.

From rare, pre-independence Indian stamps, to bright and colourful stamps from different countries, the exhibition has something for everyone. There are also stalls selling stamps with specific themes, like films and sports.

However, it is the Khadi stamp with Mahatma Gandhi’s photograph, however, that is the rage at INDIPEX. Priced at R250 and with only 1 lakh such stamps printed, the special packs are selling like hot cakes.

“It’s true that people don’t send personal letters any more. But philately is not a dying hobby,” said Kavery Banerjee, Chairperson, INDIPEX.

“The idea behind the exhibition is to expose a whole generation to the world of stamps.”