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Monday, July 30, 2012

Philately being stamped out

NAGPUR: It is something which gives you the thrill of discovery, the power of knowledge.. to run a showreel of history in front of you and, finally, something that derives the pursuer immense happiness and satisfaction. The members of a generation which was ruled by philately would relate to the description. Philately, or stamp collection, was a hobby which provided its pursuer a window to the world.
"Each stamp has a story to tell. If you study the stamps of each country you can see the various phases through which they have gone, their evolution and history," said Jayant Khedkar, philatelist and member of Nagpur's Philatelist Society.
According to him philately is not only pursuing a hobby, but also knowledge. "A stamp teaches you, it covers all the areas of your life, it talks to you about the history, culture and scientific development of the place," said Khedkar.
But philately, once known as 'the king of hobbies and the hobby of the kings', seems to have lost its appeal over the years. The number of people getting involved in it has dwindled and come down.
"I cannot see the excitement which we had for stamps in the new generation. In today's fast life, they don't have enough time to spare on a hobby," said Nisar Akhtar Ansari, who has been collecting stamps for the last 36 years.
The main reasons that are being attributed to the dwindling number of stamp enthusiasts are the onslaught of mobile and Internet technology along with a busy lifestyle. "In the earlier days people used to write letters. The sources of entertainment were also limited which is why various kinds of hobbies flourished," said Captain Mukesh Kapila, of Army Postal Department.
The lack of exposure to the very existence of stamps is also another reason for the hobby being in the danger of extinction. "Nowadays where do you see stamps? Even at our homes when letters come, they have computer stickers on them or they come by couriers which don't use stamps. How will you get attracted to something which you haven't seen enough," asked Anant Pathak, philatelist and stamp dealer.
He also said that many-a-times the supply is also erratic. Pathak informed that initially the first-day covers used to be sold only on one day, which increased its desirability. But now, it is sold for a month, and thus taking away its uniqueness. On the other hand, some stamps were supplied in very less numbers.
But Khedkar is far more optimistic about the situation. "If the collectors are becoming less, then it is better for the few collectors who remain and will remain as our value will be more. And that is why, though there is certainly a fall in numbers of philatelists, I am sure that the hobby will never die," he said.
He even said that it is not that there is a complete stagnation. Experienced philatelists feel that though a few new faces do come in, their methods are not right. "Though some people have good collection of stamps, because of lack of knowledge they do not know how to organize and sort them," said Kapila.
Also, they say that the newbies don't concentrate on themes and generally end up just collecting them. "Philately is different from stamp collection. Collection is just what the word means, while philately, it not only means collecting stamps, but also studying it," Khedkar said.
Lack of time, mobile, Internet, television, couriers or the lack of enthusiasm from the postal authorities themselves, whatever the reasons might be, the fact is that this hobby has fallen from grace. One can only hope that it is not lost in the sands of time forever.
Source : The Times of India, July 29, 2012

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