A Lost Hobby | English Article by Sukanya Bharadwaj

A Lost Hobby

           English classes are usually the much awaited time of the day as students get an opportunity to indulge in an activity most of them like i.e. talk. For these students who have no exposure to English outside the classrooms, their English teacher Baruah maam is the only connect to this foreign language, which they are all keen to learn. As was seen in the last two years, this generation had to adapt to more changes than ever. The sudden switch-over to a virtual mode of learning during covid times, surely came with a lot of anticipation, yet on the flip side it familiarised them with the possibilities of the medium, which by itself was a breakthrough. This experience also taught them that nowadays with the inevitable use of mobile phones, just to stay in touch with friends, knowing English has become unavoidable. So, the rapt attention and active participation evident during English classes.

            Pranab is a proactive child of the 8th Standard, is not just an,  attentive listener but is equally prompt at answering. However, today while introducing the class to a chapter on ' Hobbies' from their text, the teacher found him as well as all others with a blank look specially, as he read out the indoor hobbies listed there. Painting, Singing, Listening to music needed no introduction to them but Stamp Collection? Now what did that mean? No wonder, in this age of SMS and gmail, our children are not able to relate to this one hobby, which has of course become a thing of the past. As the teacher took them through the pages of history, telling them about the good old days of letters, it seemed nothing less than a fairytale to them while for the teacher, it was pure nostalgia. Infact while explaining to them, the teacher herself realized for the first time, the intrinsic value of this forgotten hobby and the huge impact it left on her mind.

          Baruah maam's own book of stamp collection at once flashed before her eyes. They contained lovely pictures (postal stamps) printed beautifully in vivid colours. They were like receipts of prepayment for the postal delivery service. The value printed on the stamps represented the predetermined cost of carrying the letter to its destination. She recalls that this hobby was brewed with some fun element. As it was a common hobby in those days, the attractive stamps were often exchanged with their friend's collection, to replace the ones they didn't have. Sharing this common interest paved way for closer bonds of friendship. The students were told about the charm of letter writing and also about the patient waiting that came with it. They found it rather strange and funny that messages took several days just to be delivered to their loved ones. However, those belonging to the age of letters would know the charm they derived in waiting for replies as much for the delivery of their letters. That also reminded her of the 'friendship chain letters', which they received from unknown friends across the globe. They were called 'mail friends' Having got their addresses from these chain letters she used to write to them about her native land, her culture, traditions, lifestyle, etc. Her friends from Rajasthan, Goa, New York, Japan and Australia in turn wrote back about their own culture. In absence of even the electronic media to divert their attention, such practices were a great source of mutual, cultural exchange and strengthened the bonds of friendship between them. The stamps collected from these chain letters she recollects were the rarest ones. Another priceless possession she mentioned, was a stamp of the stalwart of the Assam freedom movement, Chandraprova Saikiani whose courage and standalone spirit continues to inspire women of this region.

         Owing to her interest in this hobby, she recently googled to find more about stamp collection. She was glad to learn that 'stamp collecting' or 'philately'  is often called the 'king of hobbies.'The first postal stamp in India was introduced on 1 July 1852 in the Scinde district. Thereafter the postal department issued stamps on various themes, including, presidents of free India, freedom fighters, poets, artists, dances of India, historical monuments, brides of India, wildlife, child art etc. to name a few. Stamps minted with such images give glimpses of the glorious past and of our rich and varied culture, of legends and legacies. Baruah ma'am took this opportunity also to explain that be it stamps or any other thing, collection is a good habit to imbibe. She pointed out that building a collection improves our mental capacities and boosts mental health. It builds a desire for knowledge, increases our organizational abilities, enhances observation and above all is a great stress booster.

Writer's address:

Sukanya Bharadwaj.

Assistant Teacher,

Upper Dani High School.

Rani Block.

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