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India Currents gave me a voice in days I was very lost. Having my articles selected for publishing was very validating – Shailaja Dixit, Executive Director, Narika, Fremont

[This book review I wrote appeared earlier in Amazon.  It is republished in India Currents at the request of Mr. Kailash Joshi, Editor, who wrote the Foreword to the book.  I have made a few revisions to my original post in Amazon – Partha Sircar

A snapshot of history in a stamp

I found this book, with snapshot descriptions, by Sukumar Chaudhuri and Sulekha Chaudhuri, to be a treasure trove. And I also realized that it reflected a labor of love on the part of the late Sukumar Chaudhuri, the principal author, reflecting his deep attachment for stamp collection. Sulekha Chaudhuri should be commended for taking the initiative to publish this in book form as a tribute to commemorate his untimely death.

Over 600 stamps are arranged systematically by year of issue and by topic. And most importantly, the author has provided a snippet, describing each stamp. This, to me, is possibly the biggest attraction of the book. Going through them with interest and dedication, one can learn much about India: its march through history during the period, its great men and so much more.

The picture shows a book cover that reads India's Special Edition of Stamps
Cover of India’s Special Edition of Stamps

Stamps collected from 1947 to 1980

One is amazed to find so many stamps of such variety being issued between 1947 and 1980 by the Indian Postal Service. The collection with stamps showing the Ashoka Pillar, the Indian Flag, and the Douglas DC-4 aircraft – all reflecting the newly attained independence. Many great personalities of India: politicians, poets, and social reformers appear on the stamps, as do many of the important monuments. Hardly any of the important Indian personages are missing.

There are stamps commemorating important events like the passing away of Mahatma Gandhi, the Inauguration of the Republic of India in 1950, and the First Asian Games in 1951. Looking through them, in conjunction with the descriptions, one can have a fair appreciation of India in its march through time for the years covered. There are also stamps showing important foreign personalities like Madame Curie, Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln, and Lenin. But above all, there were my personal favorites: two series of stamps showing different birds, the Indian Flowers Series, and the Wildlife Series.

Stamps share memories of childhood

The Foreword by Kailash Joshi, Editor, provides a good summary of what is to follow. I found there the history of the Postal Service, which I found particularly interesting. I learned that India, in 1852, became the first country in Asia and the tenth in the world to introduce its own postage stamps. Earlier, prepayment of postage was carried out through copper tickets, starting in 1774.  This was followed by hand-struck stamps known as Bishop Mark, named after Henry Bishop, the first Postmaster General of Great Britain in India. The first ‘real stamps’ were prepared in the Mint in Calcutta and issued in 1854. I wish some pictures of the early ’stamps’ were included in the book.

Looking through the book brought back memories of my childhood, seven decades back, when I was an avid stamp collector myself. I remembered that I had inherited some of my father’s collections. I also remembered going to buy stamps in a favorite store and exchanging stamps with friends, often accompanied by heated arguments. And finally, strangely enough, I remembered the 1953 stamp of the Centenary of the Indian Railways and the group of 6 stamps of six poets from Kabir to Rabindranath Tagore published in 1952. They were part of my treasured collection.

 Both digital and printed versions are available on Amazon.

Partha Sircar is a retired Civil Engineer, currently residing in Concord, California. He has a BE in Civil Engineering from Bengal Engineering College in Shibpur, India, and a Ph.D. in Geotechnical Engineering...