THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Here is someone who has set aside time, money and effort to pursue the passion of his soul. For Gilbert Samuel, stamps were his playmate from the age of five. For the past 48 years he has been engaged in collecting stamps, postal stationery, coins and currencies. For him, stamp collection is not just a hobby, it is a part of his life.
The material value of his stamps is priceless. He has an enormous collection of stamps, both national and international. He has a story to say about each stamp among the collection of more than two lakh stamps. “There is a mental attachment that I have developed with each stamp. From the day it comes to my hand till my death I pamper it as my baby,” says Gilbert.
His love for reptiles instigated him to collect stamps of reptiles from around the world. His collection includes various kinds of reptile stamps, from lizards, turtle, tortoise, crocodile, alligators, snakes and a myriad of species. As his stamp collection grew out of leaps and bounds, he decided to conduct exhibitions. For that he started collecting reptile stamps as he found them uncommon among stamp collectors.
Being the joint secretary of the Philately Club of Calicut, he has spent half of his life in the post office, indulging himself in fetching rare stamps and postal accessories. After spending 24 years in the Army, he came back to Kozhikode, where he started an enterprise of security services. When he was in the military it was his mother, the late Padmini Samuel, who used to gather the stamps for him. She was equally enthusiastic like him in this endeavour.
“She was the pillar of support and presently my wife Premila Juliet has replaced her in helping me collect stamps,” he says.
“My mother was my first support. My love for stamps roots from my mom’s interests. My brothers and I grew up watching her collecting stamps with much fervour. Now my wife has never made me feel the absence of my mother and above all I am extremely lucky to have a family of stamp lovers who provide constant support” adds Gilbert.
His collection starts from the first stamp that was released during the time of independence to the present, which includes stamps of different shapes and sizes. For him it is not just randomly collecting stamps. A large amount of time is spent on it. As soon as he gets a new stamp he conducts a deep study about its history. Thus he is a walking encyclopaedia of stamps and postal stationery.
He has a wide range of commemorative stamps that are released during special occasions like Independence Day, Republic Day and Children’s Day. Apart from stamps he also collects the first day cover which comes along when the stamps that are released. He has also managed to collect a good amount of rare stamps with printing mistakes which he attained through keen observational skills while visiting the post office. He can say the story of India after independence through his collection of stamps. Gilbert has a collection of refugee relief stamps that were released to recuperate the refugee tax levied by the government to meet the needs of the people who flocked to India from Pakistan.
“Both of us are into collecting stamps. A lot of money and effort have to be pooled in to continue with this hobby. But the pleasure we attain from this is priceless. We will continue this till the last breath. Our next desire is to educate the younger generation about stamps and track their interest in such activities.” says Premila, his wife.
Apart from stamps, Gilbert has a collection of postal cards, aero grams and Army covers. He has also taken the pains to get the post cards released under the name of Mahatma Gandhi. “Many have asked him to sell his exclusive collection of stamps so that he can at least build a house of his own. But he is very ardent about preserving them, no matter how much difficulty he has to face. Seeing his confidence, I can’t prevent myself from supporting him,” says Varghese Samuel, his brother.
Apart from this he has an interesting collection of tortoises, from soft toys to handmade ones of clay, wood and Thailand crystal, bronze, silver and gold. His loved ones, during their visits, present him with such tortoises or stamps as he values them more than money or other gifts.