Look, who's showing at The Dignity Foundation's ‘Passionate Collector's Exhibition'!

An original miniature1937 Ford Convertible Sedan from the Matchbox series of 1953, the spoon that fed Queen Victoria, 5,000 matchboxes from over a 100 countries, coins from the Asoka period, and reports of the Carnatic Wars.

These collectibles that represent disparate events in history, when placed next to each other, seem curiously incongruent — but, they are all, oddly, related to each other.

These collectibles, besides a confluence of coins from the East India Company, a coconut that has been preserved for close to a century and King Edward VII's original autograph, form part of the Dignity Foundation's ‘Passionate Collector's Exhibition'. The event brings together the shared passions of over 20 collectors, who also happen to be senior citizens.

“History is my passion and once I start reading about an event in history I want to know everything about it,” says a zealous R. Vaidyanadhan. A retired journalist, he wanted to find out how significant moments in India's history were represented in the Western media of that age. Thus started his hobby of collecting some of the earliest newspapers in the English language that carried reports about India. It informs us about the times when Bhutan was Bhotan and Nepal was Nepaul and the present day Chandni Chowk — Chandee Choke.

The New York Herald dated October 3, 1857, reports the outbreak of the 1857 Uprising, and The Daily Mail's special edition for Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee is printed in golden ink — these are some of the many pages from history that he has meticulously conserved. “Everything has an evolution. Everything has a history,” he says, flipping through the reports chronicling India's history. He also has an exhaustive collection of gold coins from the Vijayanagara era, the autographs of people such as Charles James Napier and Jawaharlal Nehru and a modest collection of spoons used by the likes of Queen Victoria.

History in a box

“I have around 5,000 match boxes collected from more than a 100 countries,” says Selvaraj. There are Chinese matchboxes that are triangular, their matches pink and conjoined, flat square matches which were issued to commemorate the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana, delicate wax matchsticks white as milk, matchboxes celebrating the rich wildlife of Kenya and a matchbox issued by Air India featuring the iconic Air India Maharaja.

The Ram Mohans represent a couple in sync. If he collects stamps, precious stones and temple coins, wife Visalam has a collection of miniature cars and bells from her journeys abroad. He recalls how a friend told him that there comes a time in philately when the stamps start talking back to the collector. Of his collection, he says: “You can never feel lonely with them around.” Pointing to her collection of miniature models of the Volkswagen 1500 Saloon, the 1909 Thomas Flyabout and Lamborghini Miura, among others, Visalam recalls how she bought some of them “for two shillings and six pence. Nowadays, they are almost unaffordable”.

(The Dignity Foundation exhibition is on February 12 and 13 on St. Theresa's Church Campus (Assumption Hr.Sec School premises), No. 4, Nungambakkam High Road)

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