The expo on commemorative stamps and first day covers keeps the spirit of Independence alive long after the celebrations

So you watched the tricolour unfurl, sang the National anthem hoarsely, and enjoyed a day away off from work. Independence Day, maybe already forgotten, but a philatelic expo underway in the city seeks to keep the spirit flying aloft, long after the celebrations are over.

The expo by Tiruchi Philatelist’s Association, one of the oldest surviving in the country, chronicles the ‘saga of India’s freedom struggle though Indian postage stamps’, to quote from the display. Right from the heroes of the First War of Indian Independence like Nana Saheb, Tantya Tope, Rani Lakshmi Bai and Mangal Pandey to Dadabai Naroji, the ‘old man of India’, Tilak who famously uttered ‘Swaraj is my birthright and India’s first prime minster Jawaharlal Nehru, the collection spans a hundred years. Not to forget are milestone events including Vellore Mutiny, the Satyagraha and Jallian walla bagh massacre that changed the face of the movement.

Displayed in five frames, the exhibition features the collection of three young hobbyists. An impressive award-winning collection by R.Susendran, a Class VIII student from Vasavi Vidyalalya, is followed by a single frame display by Irin Princy, B.A. student, Holy Cross College and engineering student, K.Sivachidambaram Pillai.

Much more than the Mahatma

Though the younger generation may most likely associate the freedom struggle with Gandhi, the young philatelists have grouped many lesser-known names along with prominent ones to highlight their role in the freedom movement. Yet, the Mahatma has an entire section dedicated to him, including a rare 1948 stamp.

Though glimpses of their lives accompany first day covers and stamps, information on featured personalities is often inadequate. These are sourced from brochures accompanying stamps at the time of release, says P.Soundararajan, president of the association. Among 3000commemorative stamps released so far in India, at least 80 per cent are tributes to personalities, predominantly martyrs and leaders, he adds.

Interesting vignettes

Among the collection are a first day cover with a relaxed Indira Gandhi on a swing surrounded bytribal women; four composite stamps with 60 portraits of Indian National Congress presidents from A.O. Hume to Rajiv Gandhi, commemorative of the centenary of the Indian National Congress and a first day cover of the INA memorial in honour of Netaji. Sri Aurobindo ,Bipin Chandnra Pal, economist Romesh ChunderDutt, Chittaranjan Das are among those featured.

Stamps on women include Madam Bhikaji , Kasturba Gandhi, Kamala Nehru and Sarojini Naidu. For those keenon a finding local interest, spot V.O.Chidamabaram Pillai, Tirupur Kumaran, Thillayadi Valliamai, Bharathi, Annadurai and Rajaji. A special collection is the series of stamps with tricolour vertical bands running on either side of the stamp, that pay homage to leaders.

Reading between the lines one can find bloopers, incongruities and political undercurrents making their way onto the stamps. A stamp depicting Gandhi’s feet, for instance, have sandals that appear mismatched. The first stamps to portray the Mahatma were printed in Switzerland, ironical for a man who championed Swadeshi, says Soundararajan.

The expo is on till Septemeber 5 at the Philatelic Bureau, Head Post Office from 10 am to 6 p.m.