In his 60 years, Maruti Narayan Mhatre had never considered collecting stamps. But last month, to his surprise, he inherited a stamp collection that includes every stamp released by the Indian Postal department between 1947 and 1988.
The treasure, currently kept at Bhandup’s Amar Kor Vidyalaya where Mhatre works as a managing secretary, was collected by Rajaram Raoji Malusare, who died at the age of 78 in 1988. Malusare was a school education inspector with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and later worked as an advisor to a number of city schools.
“Malusareji was my guide and teacher, but I lost touch with his family after his death,” said Mhatre, carefully sorting through the 30-odd notebooks in which the stamps have been pasted. “Even then, his daughters looked for me for more than 20 years, because they knew I would take good care of the collection.”
Mhatre wants the stamps to be put to good, educative use, especially for children. “The entire history of independent India plays out in these stamps,” he said, pointing to the Tricolour on the nation’s first stamp, dated August 15, 1947, neatly pasted on the first page of the “1940s” notebook.
Among other gems is a 1953 first day cover marking the conquest of the Everest, and stamps celebrating 50 years of potato research (1985) and the silver jubilee of Navy ship INS Vikrant.
Malusare’s diaries and notebooks may be yellowed and fragile, but the effort in displaying the prized collection is obvious. Divided date-wise and theme-wise, there are journals for first day covers, information booklets for each stamp, and handwritten notebooks telling the story of each stamp in Marathi.
“The Postal department’s booklets contain information in English and Hindi. Malusare is perhaps the only stamp collector who translated it all into Marathi,” added Mhatre.
Over 1,500 stamps have been arranged and pasted, but the collection also includes several boxes full of unsorted, foreign stamps that Malusare collected in his last years.
Mhatre hopes to see the collection being adopted by a responsible stamp connoisseur, but is happy being its caretaker for now.