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Times of India, 15.08.2001
By Manju Ramanan

If Independence day is seen in tricolour flags and the general festivity all around, for 14 year old Mihir Pandya, the spirit of August 15 is very much at home — in his stamp collection.

The ninth standard student from Shaishav school has been, since the past three years, collecting stamps that represent India and has won National and International awards like the Gujpex-97, Millipex-2000, Indipex-2001 and Nephil -2001 for the same.

The son of philatelist Prashant Pandya, Mihir was naturally attracted to the world of stamps and started collecting them since a young age. He was initiated into the hobby by his father. His collection, neatly done up in individual sheets of paper with captions, is known as ‘Vision of India’.

The stamp of Shakuntala begins the philatelic tour of Mihir’s concept of India. “The legendary mother of Bharat after whom the country is named after seemed to me an apt beginning for my collection,” he says.

Next, Mihir depicts the geographical location of the peninsula through postal covers and stamps of Mt. Everest (North), Sambhar lake-Narmada in the west, Vivekananda Memorial in the South and the red river Bramhaputra in the east as well the cellular jails of Port Blair in the Andamans. With it, Mihir has also included India’s neighbouring countries like Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan and Sri Lanka in the language of philately.

Then the young collector takes us on a stamp tour of India’s past. Indus valley sites — Mohenjodaro, Harappa and Lothal along with Kalibangan seal of Rajasthan, all depicted in stamps.

The epic world of Ramayana, Mahabharata come next with stamps of Ravana, Valmiki and Sita. Also a cancellation seal of Dwarka — which reads, “Land of Krishna” is part of his collection. Then follows a glimpse of the vedic civilisation — Dadichi, Maxmuller and Dayanand Saraswati. Also a stamp depicting the Panchayati Raj — a system of governance supposed to have originated from the Aryans.

Foreign invasions, with stamps of Vasco de Gama, the Portuguese capture of Goa, Saint Francis Xavier, Queen Victoria.

The Indian counter to colonialism — Rani Laxmibai, Mangal Pande, the sepoy mutiny, the INA, Tatya Tope, Begum Hazrat Mahal, All India Congress committee, AO Hume, Gokhale, Lala Lajpatrai, Tilak and Quit India movement. Also lesser known freedom fighters like Indulal Yagnik, Thakkar Bapa, Sadar Vedaratnam, Senapati Bapat and Vitthalbhai Patel have a place in his prized collection.

This section particularly includes “se-tenant” stamps meaning ‘stamps in a pair’. Called Swaraj, the stamp is priced at Re 1.20 and 60 paise each. The Birth of New India, a souvenir sheet (a group for ten stamps) issued by the government of Venezuela is part of the collection.

There is the Independent India collection with stamps of presidents and prime ministers. A stamp of Gulzarilal Nanda who was twice the acting PM of India is also present.

Religious and cultural leaders like Mira Bai, Tulsidas, Aurobindo Ghosh, Subramanya Bharati, Mahavir Prasad Dwivedi to writers and poets like Nandalal Kavi, Firaq Gorakhpuri, Kanhaiyalal Munshi, Savitri Phule and Ram Sharma Acharya (pioneers of women’s education in India), to the veteran Basaveswara, everyone has a place in Mihir’s collection.

Mihir has not left out sports from his collection. Stamps on hockey, cycling, kabbaddi, archery, yoga and wrestling are included along with well known personalities like Sunil Gavaskar, Mohan Bagan, Vijay Merchant, KS Ranjitsinh, Goshta Paul, Arti Gupta (Saha) and Kapil Dev. Entrepreneurs like Godrej, Tatas, Kirloskars, Wadia and stamps of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry are part of the collection. Mihir’s interest in the Indian fauna is also obvious from his collection. Olive Ridley turtles and various other birds and beasts are included in his much varied collection.

Mihir sums up his assortment with a personal statement of his vision for India. Stamps on ‘Freedom from Hunger’, ‘Shelter to the Homeless’, ‘Freedom from Drugs’, ‘Untouchability as crime’ and ‘Safe water for all’ are his other titles.

This article was published in Times of India, Ahmedabad edition on 15th August, 2001.