To a generation that fiddles with tablets and smartphones as its favourite pastime, philately may seem like something out of a history lesson.
Written communication now means emails or instant messaging, so effectively we've stopped posting letters. Along with that, the interest in stamps is ebbing as well. During National Postal Week (October 9 to 15), we met some stamp enthusiasts, and asked if the hobby has any takers.
Arvind Paranjype, director, Nehru Planetarium, Worli, has been collecting stamps since he was 11.
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He says, "I had an interest in astronomy, so my father gifted me a first day cover (any postal material from the date of issue) of the Apollo XI landing on the moon on July 20, 1969. From there, my interest in stamps grew. I have stamps of Jaipur's Maharaja from my grandfather's era, and a stamp which was sent during Australia's hurricane in 1974."
Collectors focus on collecting a particular set of stamps, and after a point, sell it for a greater monetary value— Shabbir Slatewala, stamp dealer
Paranjype's collection now has close to 10,000 stamps.
Another collector, Manohar Kamath, a medical consultant by profession, says, "I once found a load of old envelopes at a farmhouse. When I asked the owner if I could take some, he gladly obliged. Those stamps turned out to be worth thousands of rupees."
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Stamps are still actively traded within the city's philatelic community. Some even have Facebook groups, where they showcase their collections. Besides, the philately wing of the General Post Office has around 4,000 members who meet every Saturday, at 3 pm.
I have stamps of Jaipur’s Maharaja from my grandfather’s era—Arvind Paranjype, director, Nehru Planetarium
Yet, the collectors don't deny that the interest in stamps is diminishing: Shabbir Slatewala, who has been running a small stamp-selling shop in Fort for the last 35 years, says, "Customers have certainly decreased, and the only young people who come are students who need stamps for school projects."
Paranjype adds that, "Earlier, we made pen friends and ask them to send stamps from their countries, and we would send them ours. That no longer happens." The ones sustaining philately are the investors: "They collect stamps and, after a point, sell them for a greater value."
Slatewala, however, feels stamp collection should not be about the money. "I've been in this business only because I enjoy buying stamps and sorting them. This gives me satisfaction," he says.