Times of India, 22.10.2001
By Manju Ramanan
Visualise this. A girl is all set to post a letter. She writes it neatly, folds it and puts it in a envelope and writes down the address on it. But the moment she picks up the stamp to stick on the envelope, she changes her mind. She pops the stamp into her mouth and relishes its chocolate flavour.
This is no scene from a slapstick comedy or a funny post-modernist advertisement but an incident that might happen if the stamp you choose to put on the envelope is an edible stamp especially made to tickle your taste buds. In the past, gramophone records used to be made of chocolate. Once you were tired listening to the records, you could gobble them up. Following the same rule, countries too started issuing stamps that were delectable to your palette.
City-based philatelist Prashant Pandya, who has been collecting different types of stamps explains, The Choco Swisse stamp from Helvetia, Switzerland is of chocolate flavour was probably made to honour the chocolate industry in its centenary celebration. It smells of chocolate too, and has silver foil around it like real chocolate, he says.
But there are stamps which can to be heard too. Pandya displays stamps of Bhutan, actually small gramophone records. The stamps are called "talking stamps" and were issued in a set of seven by Bhutan. Each stamp had a different recording containing Bhutan's national anthem or Bhutanese history, he says. Catering to the human sense of touch are Bhutanese stamps which are made of moulded plastic.They look like mini sculptures and have the faces of famous personalities like Gandhi, Churchill and Kennedy. Another Swiss stamp is beautifully embroidered in blue lace. Thick canvas stamps, which are like miniature paintings, are also part of his collection.
For a visual treat, there are the Bhutanese thermoplastic stamps that have a prismatic ribbed surface and give a three-dimensional effect. The stamps are thematic in nature, like, say, gems or even current issues.
Pandya also has silver, copper and 22-23 carat gold plated stamps, miniature sheets, imperforated stamps, stamps like credit cards, stamps of different shapes and sizes including trapeziods, polygons, hexagons, triangles and miniatures too.
Pandya, however, flaunts one of his prized possessions. A first round stamp. The first circular stamp in the whole world is a stamp called Scinde Dawk, from the Sindh province, India, he says.
But Pandya's stamps are not mere collections. They are food for the mind too. His collection of transportation stamps offer interesting insights into the way post was delivered in many parts of the world. Pandya has a cover and a stamp used in balloon mail with a picture of Thaddeus Lowe, the American balloonist who chanced on this method of delivering mail.
Another one is a rocket-fired mail stamp. As experiment mails were attached to little rockets and sent to places which were difficult to reach by train and air, like Sikkim. But the most interesting transport mail in Pandya's collection is the tin can mail of Tonga. The island had fierce volcanoes and the rough seas, steamers could not dock there. So people filled letters in biscuit tin boxes and threw them into the sea where swimmer-postmen transported them to the steamers docked at a distance. The same routine would follow for receiving post. Which was why the area was nicknamed tin-can islands, Pandya explains.
This article was published in Times of India, Ahmedabad edition on 22nd October, 2001.