The Stamp Collector


The boy had started collecting stamps when he was seven years old. An uncle had gifted him with a stamp book for his 7th birthday. He had wished for a train or a G.I.Joe, but his uncle thought it was time the boy took up a hobby.

His sister had helped him tear off his first stamp from their father’s envelope and place it in his new book. Soon, he learnt to cut them neatly with a scissor. Over the years he had learnt to organise them by country, by year, by occasion. He begged relatives who travelled abroad to get him stamps from faraway lands where exciting things happened (at least in his imagination).

The stamps from China had pictures of Dragons spewing fire; the stamps from Paris showed a strange tower-like structure like a giant fir tree without a trunk. His father had told him the name of the tower but he had forgotten. It sounded very foreign and exotic. Surely all those countries were much more interesting than his little town. Any place with dragons had to be smashing!

The stampbook(s) for there were many across the years came to be a constant companion for the little boy. It followed him through teenage and into early adulthood. He was the only boy among his friends, who spent most of his pocket-money on buying stamps rather than watching movies or having a night at the pub.

His first job allowed him to start spending regularly on his stamp collection. And his collection flourished. Then he met a wonderful woman and got married. Years passed by. They had two children. The children grew up and left the nest. The wife passed away.

And once again the stamp-collector was all alone with nothing to keep him company but his books. He had stopped collecting new stamps. He was too old for that now, and preferred to spent his remaining days admiring his collection sitting on the front porch of his house.

One afternoon, he was poring over a particularly intricate Turkish stamp with a magnifying glass and cursing the Arabic language for its cunning curviness, when a sound startled him.

“Who’s there?” the old man asked sharply.

“It’s me, Sir” a small voice replied. A little boy of 5 or 6 appeared. The old man recognized him as the neighbor’s child.

“What do you want?” the old man asked rubbing his temples.

“What are you doing? What is that?” the boy was looking at the stamp albums with interest.

“Don’t you know you shouldn’t ask elders questions?” the man asked angrily.

The child smiled. His front two teeth were missing. “Why? Aren’t you supposed to ask questions when you don’t know something?”

That’s 2 questions in a row, thought the man irritably.

“Go away. Don’t disturb me.” the old man looked down and continued poring over his stamps.

The boy didn’t move. The man pretended not to notice. Five minutes later, he looked up.

“What?” asked the old man.

The boy looked upset and said “Nothing”. Then he quietly walked away.

Next day afternoon. The man hoped he hadn’t scared the child. But it was rude manners to ask so many questions. He wondered if it was the child’s fault or the parents. Parents definitely, his wife would have said.

He was surprised when the boy appeared again. This time he asked no questions. He just sat on the porch steps watching as the stamp-collector looked through his albums, turning the pages with his arthritic fingers. He jumped out of his seat whenever a loose stamp fluttered off the desk to retrieve it. The boy and the man sat for an hour in companionable silence after which the boy left.

This pattern continued for a week. The next week, the old man reserved a stamp for the boy. It was a US postage stamp of Spiderman and he had loved it through and through as a boy.

“Here”. He handed it to the little boy. The boy took it, his face breaking into a grin.

“Why are you giving this to me?”, the boy asked.

Too many questions , thought the old man.

“Hmmpphh…well..umm..for keeping your mouth shut last week. And for helping me collect those flyaway stamps.” the man gruffly said.

The boy flashed his toothless smile.

“Do you have more of these?”, he ventured.

“Off with you boy!”, cried the man. And the little boy fled with his cheeky grin clutching his Spiderman stamp.

The next day, the man settled down on the porch. There was no sign of the boy. An hour passed by. Th old man closed his books and sighed. He didn’t feel like having his usual cup of tea either. He thought he would nap for a while. But he sat staring at the ceiling for a long time before nodding off. He woke up to see the little boy peering down at him.

“I thought you were dead. But you were snoring. Dead people don’t snore, do they?” the boy said.

The man grinned. He had missed the little rascal.

“I got you something”, the boy continued.

He placed a scrap of paper on the desk. It was a picture of a crudely drawn Batman. Batman was flying in the sky along with some V-shaped birds. Batman didn’t fly, did he? thought the man to himself.

“You gave me a card yesterday. So thought I’d bring you something. Spent all afternoon colouring it.” , the boy said proudly.

“What card?” The man was puzzled.

“The little piece of paper with Spiderman on it.” the boy replied.

The man stared at the picture and he felt odd. Like something had just flown out of his chest. Nobody had gifted him anything for so long.

“Oh”, he said.

“Will you keep it in your books with the other cards?”, the boy asked.

“Cards? No my dear boy, those are stamps. Some are very valuable” The man was amused.

“Stamps? What’s that?” The man looked at the little boy. And he saw himself years ago sitting beside his sister as she explained to him about stamps and tore the stamp from their father’s envelope.

The boy rubbed his eyes impatiently, restless from standing still for so long.

“Yes, we will put your picture up in my book. Fetch me that scissor, boy. Shall we cut this up and get started here? Now here’s what we do…”

Author’s Note :

I have been toying with the idea of a story about a stamp-collector for the past two weeks. Don’t ask me why. It just popped up in my mind one fine day.

I had to do a bit of research to know what exactly a stamp-collector does. For eg: there are different specialised tongs just for picking up a stamp! Never thought a day would come when I would be Googling for ‘stamp collector’. But that’s the beauty about writing. It makes you wonder about things and then research on them. Hope you enjoyed the post 🙂

I have a Facebook fan page which is starting to show signs of dehydration in terms of fan count. So if any of my kind readers would do me the favour of going and liking my page, ‘ppreciate it a lot!

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32 thoughts on “The Stamp Collector

  1. I loveddddddddd this story. I used to collect stamps as a kid and had a lovely red stamp book to collect it. I was so crazy behind it I would never allow my sister to touch it 🙂

  2. nice one…one hobby which my kids enjoy doing….though they hardly get any stamps since we hardly get letters ….now everything is thru mail…

  3. Like many others in here was an avid stamp collector myself. Unfortunately vying with fellow stamp collectors (of my age group), I would end up in one feud too many. I’ve preserved all of ’em stamps through the years. And when I read this post I was compelled to comment – brought back all those memories both good and bad. By the way Philatelist (which means stamp collector) could’ve been an alternate title. Good post !

  4. to start with kudos for selecting uncommon theme/subject and your research on it. As always emotions are very much part of your story.
     
    Though I prefer it bit short like your previous post.

  5. @doli : Doli I also see from ur blog that your r an avid reader like myself 🙂 Thanks for you valuable comments.
    @annama : Chechi, the romantic era of inlands and envelopes is no more 😦
    @dewdrops : Thanks so much for the vote of confidence
    @Plingal : Awww..glad I took u back to ur childhood and relieved I didnt make any major bloopers in the story with my ignorance on stamp-collection as a hobby 😛

  6. Hmm.. I had actually expected a different sorta ending. One in which the old man kicks the bucket and the kid some how ‘inherits’ the collection and continues the cycle. Personally I feel more despair could have been inserted so that the kid, even though annoying at the start, eventually becomes a ray of light in the old man’s monotonous life. In other words, more content to illustrate the lines like ‘He had missed the little rascal’. I think the story touches the themes of childhood, innocence, old age, loneliness, etc on a surface level and has over all been a good read.

    Well that’s my take on the post, but then again, it’s just me.
    Keep writing.

  7. *sigh*

    The revered days of letter writing that got you stamps.
    Now it the printed shmuck on the bank letters – those too are a dying practice what with internet banking! But anyhoo…

    The feel of the story instantly reminded me of this movie I recently saw, its a cartoon called – UP-

    Have you seen it? Its adorably cutesome. The start is just as quick to surmise his life as uve done so in one paragraph, while in the movie its been oh so heart clutchingly done with a song played out. Do watch the movie.

    As for your story… Cute vibes through and through. You got the vibe of a stamp collectors actions just right. What was missing though, was how stamp collectors also steam the stamp out instead of cutting it, then delicately drying it out before adding it into the stamp album 😀

  8. @Antony: U know the fact that you actually take time to analyse the post and type a few sentences is in itself a big compliment. Ya ur right about the last bit. I did rush there. I was just eager to complete d story and a bit anxious d readers might find it too long.

    @Hayaah: I had watched UP when I was pregnant wid Ryan. UP is jus sooo cute n touching. Love d lil song about his life n all. Now dat u mention it, ur rite, my story is pretty much like dat. oopsie..hope the peeps dont think i was ‘inspired’ by it 😛

    And JJB jus mentioned 2 me abt d stamp wetting business on our way 2 wrk tday! (wid a JJB cocky look ofcourse)

  9. Such a sweet story 🙂 I first thought this was a true story about somebody you knew 🙂

    I used to collect stamps..did it just for a year and abandoned it…not my kinda hobby 🙂

    • Glad u liked it…. I wish though I had known a sweet old man like dat 🙂
      N ya I wasn’t d stamp collecty types either 🙂

  10. Nicely written. 🙂 Reminiscent of the Kabuliwala story by Rabindranath Tagore.

    And yeah I saw UP too! The soundtrack named Marriage Life by Michael Giachinno is one of my most favourite tracks. It was funny that a soundtrack should have made me cry rather than the shitty things I underwent in life. 🙂

    • @Sourabh: I know wat u mean . UP soundtrack made my sis cry too. hw d cute old man gets lonely n grumpy.
      Thanks for d visits n comments 🙂 havent read d Kabuliwala story. Off to google dat now 🙂

    • @ Deepak,Sweta n Gursewak: welcome to my blog. N thanks for visiting n actually taking time to comment when most ppl wud jus b busy wid der own blogs 🙂

  11. ohh…. not a big deal mam!!!!
    whenever i like som1’s blog…. comment to banta hain mam!!!!
    hahaha
    well thanx for considering dat comment….

  12. Nice write up ..somewhere in the middle, I was like is it a story or some kind of real life incident :-s
    But then that’s because obviously you made it sound like a real life incident, after your research 🙂

    Happy Blogging 🙂

  13. @krunal : Even the story exceeded my usual length 😦 Ah well, next time wil try not 2 drag it 🙂

    @Peter: I am assuming this is ur first time on my blog. Welcome! 🙂 And thank u so much for ur comment. Gave me a reason 2 smile today 🙂

  14. Pingback: Pocket full of Posies « And thats the Way I see It….

  15. Reminds me of good old days when I would collect magnetic stickers of all super heroes – DC, marvel, raj, diamond comics. Heh, I still have them at home.

    Thanks for a good story.

  16. I used to collect stamps when I was a kid and I still carry the collection with me wherever I go. I can relate so much to this post. Awesome post girl.
    And you are very true about doing research on stuff you don’t expect to. I do a lot of googling and looking around before writing some piece of fiction or a story.
    Keep writing more stuff. 😀
    ~Vee…

  17. I felt like it happened too fast…like you HAD to end it somehow. Also, I think you started with one thing in mind and jumped to another..because there seems to be a disconnect in the thought process. (I think) you could have delved a little (a little more than a little) deeper into the subject…it lacks substance.

    But overall, it’s a good read. And, you write very well. 🙂

    Please don’t kill me for this comment. :/

  18. Deja vu moment: what’s this story about a carpenter who meets a little boy one day? That tale twisted off here and there into alleys not understood by my pre-teen mind but there was something about this story that brings back that time for me.
    A very authentic, if you know what I mean, piece. Kudos!

  19. Hahaha ! Yes, and I stand by it – you write well.

    Do visit my blog sometime. 🙂
    I’m suffering from a massive writer’s block..arrgh. :/

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