Tuesday, July 31, 2007

More Thai Dino's

On the subject of Dinosaurs, the Thai postal dept has also released a set of stamp sheet titeled "Unseen Thailand" back in 2004. The sheet figured various scenes from thailand that were rarely seen on the tourist circuit. I doubt anyone has seen these Dinosaurs in Thailand for a long time, so they figure right in the middle of the sheet.

After much research I have reached the conclusion that these dino's belong to the genus "Eaten by T-Rex". Thailand post justifies the Dinosaurs as inherently Thai based on the finding of Dino Fossils at the Phu Kum Khao site at the Kalasin area.

Maybe its time the thai came out with another sheet of "Seen thailand". This sheet might feature scenes from a more common touruist circuits in Thailand. Such as the Strip joints, Go -go bars, Nude beaches & some such . I'd like a sheet of those stamps as well. Of course from a strictly collectors point of view! :)

Monday, July 30, 2007

Dinosaurs from Thailand

Lets have some fun today. Enough with the parade of things completing 100 or a 150 years. In fact lets go back a million years & meet the Dinosaurs. :)

Of my humble collection (no modesty here I swear), two stamps from Thailand are on the Dinosaurs. The first sheet is of four stamps released by Thailand in 1997.

I of course not an Dino expert, so in vast knowledge Field, there are only two types of Dinosaurs. The first one is the "T-Rex Dinosaurs" .The second type of Dinosaurs are "Eaten by T-Rex Dinosaurs". Of the four on top, the second one looks like the T-Rex and the rest of the bunch look like the other type. :)

The Thai postal dept releases some really nice postal stamps now and then. But to be honest, I'm not a big fan. The first reason is that all its stamps are printed not in their own country, but in France or Swizerland. Something inherently wrong in that.

Secondly, if you add up the prices of the individual stamps, the cost comes up to 20 Bhat. But the sheet costs 30 Bhat. I'm not sure about the rest of the countries, but Indian sheets cost the same as the cost of the stamps.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

150 Years of the Indian Railways

Another thing that is only150 Years old in this ancient country is the Indian Railways. I still haven't started a collection on trains, but this is one of my favourite stamps. Not only is the art work of the stamp very nice, but this is one of those miniature sheets where the stamp is part of a bigger picture. This adds beauty to the miniature sheet and the whole thing looks absolutely stunning.

As I said, this is one of my favourite stamps and finds a permanent resting spot on the bottom of my blog. But I felt that this beauty deserved a spot of its own under the sun.

I don't travel as much in trains as I would like to. But I do have a very fond spot in my heart for the Indian Railways. The Railways, along with the Indian Postal service is a pretty good representation of modern India. Nobody knows what goes where, but the machine somehow keeps running. :)

Saturday, July 28, 2007

150 Years of the India Post

The postal department has come a long way since the day they would put a sack on top of a guy and send him around the countryside to deliver the post. Well okay I know that to be untrue. The Indian postman still does exactly that. One case in point is my post on the "Holiest postoffice in the world". Out there the postman actually has to walk 14 Km up the mountain every second day.

Regardless, the Indian Postal service completed a 150 years of operation in 2004 and released this set of four stamps. The stamps try tell us the chronological evolution of the Indian postal service with the first stamp starting the tale with carts and small boats, and the fourth stamp telling us about the "E-post".

"e-Post" is an initiative of the India post that was launched in 2004 but has not really been very successful. You can read up about the e-post on the Indiapost website. But the fact is that the initiatives such as e-post tried to dissolve the barriers between the population having accesses to the Internet and the ones who didn't.

After more then a century and half of operations in a country like this, I'm not sure how good the the india post is. But of one thing I am sure. If nothing else, those chaps atleast managed to produce one postal enthusiast. :)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Nagpur GPO

I have been a frequent visitor to the Nagpur GPO for a while. I did tell you all about the Philately account with the postal dept, and I generally keep about 10 dollars in my account. This allows to account to run out every other month and gives me a great excuse to visit the place.

The GPO is a beautiful two storied building built in the Victorian style. It is a load bearing structure having brick walls, steel columns, beams and ribs encased in Limer concretewith pitched roof in country tiles and battens.

I am not an architectural expert and any of you might correct me or provide more information, but as per my knowledge, a "Load bearing structure" is one where the walls bear the whole weight of the building. In modern construction, the actual weight of the building is taken by beams running through the building. I am not sure of the advantages of either type, but most of the buildings built by the britishers during the begining of the century were of the Load bearing type.

The exterior of the GPO has red painted bricks and buff colored sandstone. The main structure has wide verhandas, tuscan columns, stone screens and a roman arch topped by a pavillion of 12 columns supporting a clock tower. I found it very satisfying to note that the clock tower is actually working.

The GPO was constructed from 1916 to 1921 and was built in a complex area of 9.5 acres for the cost of Rs 5,07,201.

I of course knew none of this, so to find out I went up to the counter marked "enquiry" and enquired about information on the buildings. I'm not sure they entertain too many enquiries of this kind, but then they finally managed to trace down a plaque fixed on the main door of the GPO (who would have imagined!) with the above information.

A great place to hang around if you are slightly demented like me. Now if onl they would trim the lawn in fornt of the main building, it would make a nice spot for a picnic. :)

Presidents Fleet Review 2006

After those disturbing images of me and that unfortunate trend of postbox fascination, let us come back to our stamps of planes. This set of four stamps was released by the India post in 2006 on occasion of the Presidents fleet review.

The first Presidents fleet review of the Indian Navy took place on 1953. During that review, the First Indian President Dr Rajendra Prasad inspected four lines and 25 ships. It wasn't a very impressive showing by most standards, In that fleet review, the pride of the fleet was INS Delhi, which when it came into the Indian Navy, was already an 20 year old vessel. But then we had got independence hardly six years back and the fact that 25 ships managed to steer in four lines must have been a neat sight in itself.

The next time we dared to have a fleet review was in 1964. Instead of the President that review was inspected by the defence minister Y B Chavan. The fleet was led by the newly inducted aircraft carrier INS Vikrant.

After that the fleet review were held on many occasions. The review kept getting bigger and better. The best and the biggest one was on 1989 with 2 aircraft carriers and a flypast by 39 naval aircraft.

A great article from which I collected a lot of info was this article by the ex navy chief Admiral J G Nadkarni (Retd).

Let us concern ourselves with the planes in the stamps. The First stamp features the Sea Harrier. A plane if you ask me, deserves a postage stamp of its own. A beautiful piece of work and the stamp doesn't do it much justice.

The next stamp contains the Sea king chopper. Something that I am fond of only for the reason that if sometime my ship gets in any trouble, this is the one that will in all likelihood be sent to fish me out of trouble.

I am not sure what the third plane is, but it seems to be some sort of a surveillance plane of the Navy / coast guard.

Finally I wanted to put in a picture of this fleet review. The Prsident was Dr A P J Abdul Kalam. A person I liked immensely and he is flanked by the Naval Chief at that time.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Post Box at the GPO

Not much to add out here today. But after yesterdays post about the post box, I remembered the post box at the Nagpur GPO (General post office). Yesterday when I dropped letters to Eric, Angel & AVK , I couldn't pass the opportunity of taking a snap with this gem of a post box. If you look at the post below, you'll see the type of post boxes that the current lot have become. On the other hand, this post box is more like the one shown in the first two stamps.

The writing in Hindi on the lower half of the box is "Khulne ka samay prati din" or "Opening time - everyday". I think it odd to keep opening time as 0906Hrs & 1010Hrs. I doubt even rocket launches take place in my beloved country with such accuracy!

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Humble Letter box

Enough with the flying boxes called aeroplanes that grab all the footage and the attention. Let us spare a few lines and space for the little boxes on our streets that do us such a great service.

Think of it. You take great pains to write a letter. If you are someone like me, you spend a few sleepless nights thinking which stamp will "go with" the letter that you are sending. And then after all that, you are just supposed to abandon the piece of history (probably in another 300 years) into a metal bin? What is the guarantee that some canine isn't stalking the box from across the corner waiting for its kidneys to pump fluid into the bladder. And this foundation is supposed to withstand the Cows scratching their backs against them? And does somebody out there actually think that the housing is going to withstand the great Indian Monsoons?

And yet over the many many years, the suckers that we are, we have been trusting our work and emotions into this box. With mixed results of course. I am sure that these boxes eat up some of the mails, but they haven't bothered mine too many. (Apart from a few they kept for a while because they liked them I guess).

I think we all have our ways to ensure that the letter boxes deliver the mail on to their mysterious ways. Puja confessed to me that she actually says a prayer to the post box every time she drops a letter into one of these. Not me. I like to think that I'm on a more friendlier level with them. So every time that I drop the letter, I pat the guy a couple of times and ask him how it is doing.

But regardless of what they tell me, I always try not to look back as I walk away.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Centinary of Man's first flight

Hi all today the stamp sheet I want to talk about is the set of four stamps released by Indian postal dept to commemorate the centenary of man's first flight. (Feminists kindly note that usage of words as per postal dept!)

The four flying machines pictured in the sheet are :

  • HT-2
  • Marut
  • LCA
  • Dhruv
Lets get into a bit of details. The thing to note about all of these is the fact that all of them were made by the Indian institution Hindustan Aeronautical Limited (HAL)

I don't think I want to incorporate choppers in my collection, but seeing as they managed to sneak in on the back of the three planes, lets start with the Dhruv. The Wiki does speak a lot about the dhruv. The Dhruv is an advanced light Helicopter and the programmes for developing it began way back in 1984 and the deliveries finally began in 2002. One of the only three Helicopter display teams in the world, the Sarang of the Indian Air force performs with four of these machines.

The HT-2 as it is popularly called is actually the "Hindustan Trainer 2". I have already written a lot about the HT-2 in my other blog "My Daddy Strongest" , so I won't go into all that again.

In my opinion the HF24 Marut and the LCA have not really been great success's of the HAL. You can read up more about them at Wiki and at the bharat rakshak website. Some would actually debate the fact that the Indian govt actually felt it appropriate to showcase their failures.

But the way I look at it, if you pump in millions of dollars of money to get something that flies, the least you can get out of them is a couple of postage stamps!

(PS: I do realise that the stamp in my picture is a little damaged. A much better one is framed on one of the walls.)

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Post office at Chikaldhara

In my series of the pictures of the post offices, please allow me to post the post-office of Chikaldhara. I had gone there in June 2006 with my wife and I must admit that it must have been a bit alarming for a newly married wife to see her husband getting excited at the sight of a post office!

Chikaldhara is one of the only hill stations near out home and is a very small town. I always find the small town and post offices to be the best to visit. The chikaldhara post office is much removed form the town and at an end of a desolate stretch of walk in the forest. Besides the postoffice was a small park with a hand painted sign of something that looked like a black Grizzly with warnings that bears and other assorted wild animals were likely to pounce on you at a moments notice.

I never said that I envy the post men of my country. I only admire them. :)

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Friday, July 20, 2007

16 Squadron , Indian Air Force

It is very rare to find Indian Post releasing stamps comemorating one squadorns of the airforce. There have been many stamps of different Batallions of the Army, but rarely a seperate stamp on a squadorn of the Airforce. As a result I was pleasently surprised to find a stamp released on the 50 years of the 16th Squadron.

I went scouring the dependable bharat rakshak website for any information on the 16 Sqn, but there did not seem to be much of that around. The 16 Sqn is called the "Black Cobra's" and their sqn motto in "Praharodata". After that much information, it seems to get a bit lost. It claims the raising date of the sqn as 1951 and the first plane in the 16 Sqn as Spitfires. In the above stamp, each of this does not seem tobe the case. The unit must have clearly been raised in 1955 & the bottommost plane is the Librator.

On going on to the website of the indian air force, I didn't find much more about it other then the fact that its crest was the one on the left.

The planes featured in the stamps are as follows from the bottom:

  • Liberator
  • Canberra
  • Jaguar
The FDC for the occasion is a stunner. I am not a fan of the Jaguar. It might be a damn good plan, but it just doesn't llok that great in the air. But look at the snap of this one on the ground. I think this is one of the rare occasion when a plane looks better on the ground then it does in Air.

I am not sure what armaments the jaguar is carrying, but it I think I can spot drop-tanks below the fusilage. These tanks carry additional fuel so as to increase the range of the aircraft. These tanks are called so because they are supposed to be dropped off the plane once they are empty so that flight charecteristics are improved. But in these days of cost cutting, I very much doubt if these are ever dropped. :)

The Field Post Office

When we were moving around the country with out air force dad, we would be passed on from one APO (Army post Office) to the other. I found it fascinating then and still do that a chap might be posted in the far flung hill ranges of the Himalayas but, if you only put on the envelope, his name followed by the APO he was under, the letter would make its way to him.

In the Indian Army, the first field post office came into operation during 1856 to accompany the expeditionary forces to Persia. This FPO operated in Bushire from 12 December 1856 to 02 Oct 1857. The location of Bushire can be seen on the first of the stamps in the series (a revelation to the map challenged person like me)

The field post office was set up initially only during war time , but over the years it has become an integral part of the defense services. In 2006, the FPO completed 150 years of service and this set of four stamps was released.

The First day cover is good as it contains a collage of small pictures. I can't identify any of the pictures as being very famous pictures, but I'm sure that they must be. On the right top corner of the envelope, you can spot a small stamp featured on the cover. On enlarging that stamp, I could read out the script in Hindi " Bharatiya suraksha Ghatak korea". In English this translates as "The Indian Contingent force - Korea." The stamp is for the value of 4 Anna's.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

More stamps

Some time back I had written about the Indian postal departments philately scheme to let you receive newly released stamps at your home after opening an account with them. This has proven to be very useful to someone like me who doesn't hang around the country for more then half the year.

On returning back home this time, I saw that the postal department has released some great stamps over the last few months. The Miniature sheet for the 2550 years of mahaparinirvana of the Buddha is one of the most beautiful pieces of work I have seen released by this country.

The first of the six postage stamps depicts a statue from the gandhara period of Siddhartha when he was a prince. The second stamp is a sculpture from Myanmar where buddha is an ascetic. The third stamp depicts the blissful head of the meditating Buddha from Sarnath, India. The fourth stamp is that of Buddha holding the nectar of immortality in a jar & the fifth stamp contain incarnations of Buddha past and future. The Hinayana symbols such as the lotus and dharma chakra is shown in the sixth stamp.

"Parinirvana" is the final deathless state where one abandons the earthly body and attains freedom from the cycles of birth and death. I don't think I know much about that, the sheet sure does look great.

The second set of stamps that is good is the set about the fairs of India. The four fairs covered in this miniature sheet are the Goa carnival, pushkar mela, sonepur fair, & the Baul Festival. Sadly I haven't been to any of them. I think I need to see more TV.

The postal dept have not come out with a miniature sheet for the Himalayan lakes, but only with a set of five stamps. The lakes covered by this set are the Chandratal in lahul & Spiti, Roop Kund , Tsangu on the Gangtok - nathula road, Sela Lake near Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh & the Tsomoriri Lake in Ladhak.

Of these, I have only been to the Tsangu lake when I went to the Nathula. I missed seeing the Tsomoriri during this visit to Leh. I think I'll do it the next time I go by road.

Finally we wrap up with the set of scented stamps. As far as my memories go, only three other countries have released scented stamps. India released two of them over the last year. The first was the sandalwood stamps and they do smell really nice. The postal dept then released the rose stamps very fittingly on the Valentines day. :)

It feels unreal to think that the total cost of all the above gems is less then four dollars.

The philately account

I had written some time back, in an upbeat spirit about the Indian Postal service and the philitaly service that it offered. In the intervening period, the postal department has not done much (Apart from a few misplaced postcards- which could be because of Thai post) to remove the tinted glasses from my eyes.

The scheme that had made me so buoyant was brilliant in its simplicity. It purported that if you deposited some money with the post office, they would at no postal cost (all in house you see!) send you new philatelic stamps as and when they did get published.

I had put in my trust into the department and placed my 500 rupees in their care. That was in June and just when I was beginning to fidget, in came the mail with this package.

I must say that the packaging and the processing is great. The stamps come by speed post and are sealed in an impressive envelope that is sealed with wax (do they still do that?) on the behind. Inside the stamps are further enclosed in a clear polythene bag to protect them from any eventuality that the postal employee might face. And finally, the account sheet is great. In it are detailed every stamp that is sent, the total cost and the final balance that is left in your account.

The stamps themselves are not such "swoon-worthy". The only one that I liked is the one commemorating the Mutiny of 1806 at Vellore. I honestly did not even know anything about this, but this link provides some great info about the mutiny. If I might quote a few lines,

" The massacre of the helpless European sick so aroused the British that no mercy was shown; about 100 sepoys who had sought refuge in the palace were dragged out, placed against a wall and blasted with canister shot until all were dead. John Blakiston, the engineer who had blown in the gates, recalled that although such punishment was revolting to all civilized beliefs, `this appalling sight I could look upon, I may almost say, with composure. It was an act of summary justice, and in every respect a most proper one.' Such was the nature of combat in India where the `civilized' conventions of European warfare did not apply."

But history apart the stamp itself is a beauty with sepia tones and and artists sketch. A piece of art.

The other stamps are on the whole uninspiring stuff. A high court in Srinagar, a girls school and a college. Not something to slobber all over the keyboard about.

But for all those with a postal address in India, I most highly recommend a visit to the local GPO and opening an account with them. The least it will do is restore the faith in the amazing thing that the Indian Postal Department is.

Token blog for the Indian postal service

I have always been a great fan of the Indian Postal service. Probably because I never use them for anything important. But it’s not as if a person like me does too many important things anyway. So I doubt some executive in the “Daak Bhawan” is staying up late at night worried why I haven’t mailed any letter in the past few months.
What actually fascinates me is the sheer vastness of this system. And the fact that it actually works. Did you know that the Postal department has come out with postcards called “Meghdooth postcards”? I think postcards were designed for a very special section of the society. You know people deeply in love with one another, who then had nothing really to say to each other. So naturally postcards were ideal for them.

But somewhere along the line, poor people hijacked the system and started sending these postcards to programs like “Surabhi” or any other TV programs in a Get-Rich-Quick Scheme. This raised the price of the humble postcards. Now the postal department has come up with these Meghdooth Postcards. You can basically use only one side of these postcards. The other side actually has advertisements. These are ideal for the “Soul mates series”. You see, if you select the Advert carefully, then you basically have nothing more to say. And whatever emotions that might be required, may be displayed by the slant of the alphabets in the address.
These postcards sell for 25 paisa. Just imagine, you might be sitting on a bench at Beach No 7, Havelock Island, in the Andamans, and yet for a mere 25 paisa, convey something extremely uncomplimentary about somebody’s sister in Doda district of J& K. Spectacular!
Then there was the post that I already did about the holiest post office in the world. Some amazing people working in the postal Dept.
Today I went to the GPO for my infrequent round of collecting whatever stamps might have come out. Miniature sheets are my new found love. Last year they came out with a stunning miniature sheet of the Dandi march on its 75th anniversary.
There is a scheme out there now by which you can open an account in any GPO in India (with a minimum or Rs 200) and these guys will send to your house once a month, all the stamps that come out. You can even decide on which sort of stuff you want like first day covers, miniature sheets, etc.

Today I got a miniature sheet of a flower called the Kurinji. These are flowers that bloom once in twelve years. Apparently this is the lucky year and they actually came out with a miniature sheet for that.
Extremely cool and exciting it was.
Sometime I’m afraid that absolute strangers will approach me on the road and ask me if living life on the edge like this, all the time, doesn’t wear me off.
Dad of course does not share this wild adulation of mine, but rather tempers it with some sage annual advice about the procedural loopholes to our postman. The postman very patiently (and politely I might add) hears him out before reminding dad that he was actually waiting for the Diwali Baksheesh. So then both go on their ways, eagerly, I’m sure, awaiting their next annual date.

Postcard from Hell

A few people that do know me, are well aware of my rather irritating habit of sending postcards. The act of receiving postcards inevitable means a trip to the garbage bin. Some like my year old niece Leela, actually eat up my postcards to avoid any nausea to the garbage man.
On my visit to the Hellfire pass memorial yesterday, I came across the postcards that the allied prisoners Of War were allowed to send across to their families. This was an actual postcard send by an allied POW. There were four pieces of paper kept in the display. The first was this postcard.

The second was a letter by the war records dept to the chaps house saying that they had received a letter from the Pvt and that he was in Camp No 2 in Japanese custody.

The third was a letter from the war dept to the family saying that they sincerely regretted to inform them that George had died in Japanese captivity.

The fourth piece was a commendation for George from the australian govt that he died heroically and that his sacrifice would not be forgotten.

As I looked at the postcard, I was simply stunned at the sort of thoughts that must be passing through the person writing and receiving such a card.

I cried.

The holiest post office in the world

We seemed to be moving out well before 9AM for the trek back to civilization. A bit of a pity I feel, because it is only yesterday night that I have come to know about the fact that there actually is a post office in Kedarnath. A singular achievement of the Indian Postal service & it would have been great to have chatted with the Postmaster. I still decided to go over there for a few token photographs & drop my postcards. The post office is a small house off the main street & as I dropped my postcards in the mailbox, I spotted a couple of guys encased in Razai’s. After greetings were exchanged, they identified themselves as the postmaster & the postman. The postmaster turned out to be a rather humble man who invited me in to chat. I declined as M&P were waiting, but still talked to him a bit from the doorway. The post office remains open for six months in a year & then closes with the temple, when the whole village is abandoned. But on the days it does remain open, the mail is cleared every single day. Everyday a postman walks 14km up from Gaurikund, while another postman walks 14 Km down from Kedarnath. They do it without mules, regardless of rain or snow. I ask him if this was the toughest posting for a postmaster to be in. Not really he assures me. There were always worse places to be in. Up in Ladakh, or the China border. In fact, a lot more places which were a lot worse. I think he is rather happy here. I think postal employees are replacing teachers from my list of favorite professionals.
I would have liked to talk to him a bit more, but bid farewell. Leaving him behind with his razai’s warmth & with a topic to talk over his next cup of tea.

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