What are watermarks and perforations'
Have you heard of the Penny Black'
Which countries carry the British monarch’s crown on its stamps'
If you have the answers to all these questions, plus a Higher Secondary pass certificate, you are likely to clear the interview hurdle and sign up for a unique course being launched on December 20 by the department of posts, in collaboration with Jadavpur University. The philately course, “the first to be offered by an Indian university”, is geared to groom a collector in what is hailed as ‘the king of hobbies and the hobby of kings’.
At the end of the three-month course, being offered under the aegis of the varsity’s department of Adult and Continuing Education and Extension, the candidates will have to clear a written test to get a certificate from the university, said registrar Rajat Bandyopadhyay.
“One can study a nation’s socio-political history through its stamps — how the choice of themes varies from one era to another; say, from the pre to the post-Independence regimes, in India’s case. This course has the potential to open up a whole new research area on what is today perceived as just a hobby,” he added.
A rough draft of the syllabus has been drawn up. “It will cover both the postal past and current philatelic practices,” said Tilak Dey, director, Calcutta GPO, and a signatory to the MoU that has been signed with the university.
A brief overview includes areas like pre-adhesive stamps, letter-writing in ancient India, zamindari dak, postal reforms, printing technology of stamps and the use of a catalogue. “We will consult seminal philately books and prepare the study material. The faculty will constitute professionals from the postal department, as well as veteran philatelists,” Dey added.
In recent times, officials say, there has been an upswing in interest in stamps. The department of posts has been conducting workshops over the past couple of years in schools like Don Bosco Park Circus, Gokhale Memorial and St Lawrence, besides some in the districts. “They have generated tremendous enthusiasm. It is a growing hobby, as well as a business,” Dey stated.
The postal department will enrol some of its own staffers as students, for them to be better equipped to conduct the outreach programmes.
Another indicator of the rising stamp-popularity graph has been the surge in the number of the department’s Philatelic Deposit Account (PDA)-holders. The PDA scheme, which reaches stamps released round the year, across the country, to subscribers, had a membership of around 400 even five years ago. Now, it has touched the 1,200 mark, revealed Ashish Chakraborty, supervisor, Philatelic Bureau.