By Humera Ahmed
Rtd Chief Post Master General(WB Circle)
Philately Division of India Post recently released a book cum album titled Art And Culture of India with mint stamps on the recto with a write up on the verso .The book in navy blue background consisted of 24 pages of art board paper with a hard board cover with a picture of a stamp of Radha in a Rajasthan Miniature painting and was enclosed in navy blue case which made it quite presentable .The book album is an attempt to give an insight into the different facets of the rich and varied cultural heritage of the country. The first page appropriately was Greetings considering the fact that India was a land of festivals ; the 2nd on Taj and Agra Fort ;the 3rd on paintings which displayed four stamps on miniatures which was continued with a set of four stamps on the next page and two on tribal paintings .This was followed by eight stamps of handicrafts and Textiles of India ,six stamps n gems and jewellrey and a miniature sheet on Festivals of India .Music and dance were displayed through ten stamps and then the book cum album ended .It had cost me Rs 2500!A sum which very few could afford but then it is not a great price to pay when you have passion for philately .But then there are few who have such passion and they are generally amongst the elderly .
The book brought back memories of an album I had possessed as a child which had given me an insight into so many facets of India -this book album does not even fully cover art and culture – and which had been lost in transit when my father was transferred from Kolkatta(than Calcutta ) to Bombay now Mumbai .I had been so dejected by the loss that I had given up collecting stamps .In those days a stamp album was a prized possession of most educated families and presenting a stamp album to a child on his/her birthday was an in thing . This was till the eighties and early nineties when letter writing was still in vogue .But all this changed with emails and SMS’s and the unnerving competition for scoring marks. Stamp collecting as a hobby gradually declined and when I was Postmaster General in Pune , I became acutely aware of the lack of enthusiasm amongst children towards philately .There was hardly any response to essay Competition on stamps as a hobby .There were hardly any submissions from students for the “ Philarunner”a philately magazine started by Pune Region though a complimentary copy was sent to most schools .
But this dismal picture is not reflected in many other countries where communication technology is even more advanced than in India .In UK and USA and even in China philately amongst youth was thriving .One of the reasons was utilising philately as an aid to learning through the active involvement of Philatelic Associations , the Philatelic Museum Society and the Ministry of Education and Culture .In USA there is a campaign of Bring Stamps in the Class room through a scheme called Stamp Teach- a collaboration between the National Philatelic Museum and the Council of Philatelist. In most countries it is the Philatelic associations which have taken the initiative for encouraging philatelic groups in schools and educational institutions . In UAE it is the Emirates Philatelic Association which has taken the initiative in promoting philately amongst students .In UK the British Museum And Archive has a free outreach scheme’ Stamps in School co-ordinated by a retired teacher Erene Grieves which has created interest in Philately in students in primary and secondary schools .
In India too the Philatelic Associations can take initiative by synchronizing their efforts to promote Philately in schools and other educational institutions by sensitizing the managements .Many schools boards have dispensed with the final examination till the eighth standard and therefore the child can learn at a comfortable pace through more creative projects in which stamps can be utilized to aid learning such as in natural Sciences ,History and cultural Heritage .