We all have hobbies. Some like to keep them, some give them up. But there are few very rare people who have the heart and zeal to turn them into miraculous adventures. Today, I would like to share the story of one such soul, Shri Raj Pal Oswal, who can be described in many ways – an 83 year old man, a graduate from Bradford Textile Technical College, Yorkshire County, England and an established businessman of the city. But most of all, he is what they call – an ardent PHILATELIST (a specialist on philately, fɪˈlat(ə)li/ – the collection and study of postage stamps).
“I have been collecting stamps since 1952!” says Shri Raj Pal Oswal proudly.
This weekend as I entered the home of Shri R.P. Oswal to interview him, the man who stood right across me was almost three times my age but the sparkle in his eyes was that of a 12 year old boy. A boy who was all ecstatic to flaunt his precious Stamp collection to me which he had been collecting for past six decades now!
A neat round table was set up and each stamp was segregated by its topics ranging from stamps of Mahatma Gandhi from Africa to Embroidery stamps from Switzerland to Gastronomy based stamps from Spain to Jainism stamps from Germany et al.
Starting from Stamps issued for the Royal Family of England, he said “Queen Elizabeth is the most beautiful women in the world!”. And with a sweet twinkle in his eyes, he continued to show me each of his lamenated sheets of stamps, including stamps issued in England during the golden Jubilee coronation of queen Elizabeth, 10th death anniversary of Princess Diana and so on.
Next, we moved on to Gastronomy. This was a fascinating topic with some very peculiar stamps such as those issued in Spain based on their gourmet cuisine and American Chocolate stamps which were actually made of chocolate! Then, were the stamps on Roses. “Smell them!” he said and guess what? They smelled like roses!!!
The most interesting however, were the Embroidery stamps. What made these special was the strangest fact that, till date, Switzerland has been the only country to be able to manufacture them! And he owns the first ever stamp issued in the year 2000 by the Swiss government.
His exquisite collection of Braille stamps which were issued to commemorate Sir Louis Braille, inventor of the Braille script, a reading and writing system for blind and visually impaired people and other such priceless pieces were just a few of the many crown jewels of his wide collection of thousands and thousands of stamps.
The Indian postal service has many times recognised his contribution to the society by inviting him to events all over india to showcase his eclectic collection and meticulous organization of stamps and has bestowed him with prestigious awards since 2005. World senior citizen conclave also recognized him for his Philatelic contribution and the Indian army awarded him with the honour of the ‘Vajra Philex 2005’.
The oldest stamp that he owns was issued in 1852. He particularly specialises in collecting Indian stamps and claims to have each one of them both – pre and post independence. I even got to see a stamp from East India Company circa 1855!
With all the accomplishments he has received from the world, he still feels sad that none of his younger generations have shown interest in his passion. Yet, it does not flicker his determination to continue collecting stamps. “My children are not interested in my collection. But I will continue collecting them till my last breath.”, he says as his most earnest confession.
I asked him if any young kids would like to take on this hobby, then what should they do? His answer…
- Become a member of Philately society.
- Keep in touch with the Postal service to keep you informed about the latest stamps issued and surf the internet for International stamp information.
- Always buy the whole sheet of stamps rather than just one stamp.
- Laminate them to make sure that they stay in mint condition for longest period.
- Keep a long term interest in buying stamps and use your pocket money to buy them because they hardly cost anything. (Stamps can be worth 100 times their purchase price in 10 years!)
Apart from collecting stamps, he also started collecting Indian currency notes which have unique codes on them like 444444/123456/654321 et al. and shops for defected pieces, like those cut wrongly or misprinted as they are limited edition and valued highly by collectors!
To conclude, what I would like to emphasise from my above experience is how in the current world we forget to teach the most valuable lessons to our kids. Lessons of ‘PATIENCE AND PERSEVERANCE’. Hobbies like Philately (Collection of stamps), Numismatics (collection of coins), Autograph collecting, Spoon collecting or collecting any other object of their interest are some great ways to inculcate these traits in your kids and develop qualities of respect and commitment in them. Only you as a parent can inspire them for the same and this story might be a wonderful start to begin with!
Hoping to hear experiences of many more such committed individuals from our readers. Write to us at : firstname.lastname@example.org.
We at THE HUSH HUSH DIARY are truly inspired sir!