Philately is perhaps the most popular hobby on Earth, with over 200 million enthusiasts worldwide from all walks of life. The term 'philately' is derived from the Greek word 'philotelera'; 'Philos' referring to the love of something and 'telos' referring to a tax. Strictly speaking a philatelist not only collects stamps and postal related matter but also undertakes a thorough study of them.

Before the invention of postage stamps, postmarks were in use in various parts of the world. Sir Rowland Hill, a schoolteacher from Britain suggested various postal reforms in 1837 with the result that uniform postal rates irrespective of distance, and adhesive stamps were introduced in 1840. As every schoolboy knows, the Penny Black was the first stamp. Black was not a clever choice of colour as the franking mark could hardly be seen, so the Penny Black was quickly replaced with the Penny Red. The first stamps were unperforated and had to be cut from a sheet, but the idea of perforations was applied in1845.

India was the first Asian country to issue a postage stamp. Sir Bartle Frere, the Chief Commissioner of Sind, issued the first stamps on 1st July 1852. They were known as 'Scinde-Dawks' of a half Anna in value but were only used within Sind province & on the Bombay Karachi route. Two years later, stamps of the same denomination were produced at the Calcutta mint. They were printed in red and bore the portrait of the young Queen Victoria. After only 900 sheets, the ink ran out and printing ceased. Most of those stamps were destroyed. Blue was then used and soon stamps of 1 Anna, 2 Annas, and 4 Annas were available.

In November 1855, the Calcutta mint ceased producing stamps and the printing was transferred to Thomas De La Rue & Co. in London where it continued until 1926, with the design bearing the portrait of successive rulers. Then in 1926 the India Security Press at Nasik, near Mumbai came into being. In 1931 the first pictorial stamp was issued to mark the inauguration of New Delhi as the new capital city, then in 1935 commemorative stamps were issued for the silver jubilee of King George V. Following Independence, India has issued a large number of stamps highlighting her culture, traditions, art, history, architecture, flora & fauna. National leaders and freedom fighters have also been portrayed.

Those of us who form collections of one sort or another, often live in the hope that they will eventually come by an item that will turn out to be worth a fortune. Usually a hopeless dream in these enlightened times. The world's most valuable stamp is a grubby looking One Cent British Guyana (black on
magenta) issued in 1856. The value should have been four cents but somehow a mistake had been made on one. A young boy found it in 1873, & sold it to a local collector for 6 cents. Two years later it sold for $120, then in 1922, $7343. In 1940 it changed hands for $45,000 and in 1970, $280,000. Ten years later it soared to $850,000 and in 1982 it was sold again for $935,000. Not bad for a one cent stamp!

India's costliest stamp is an 1854 four-anna stamp that was printed with Queen Victoria's portrait upside-down. This stamp became known as the 'inverted head' and only 28 are known to exist. Amongst post-Independence stamps, the Rs.10 Mahatma Gandhi issue of 1948 with "SERVICE" overprinted is the most valuable. The stamp is part of a set of four, printed in Switzerland. They are the only stamps to be printed outside India since 1925. So, my Darlings, go forth and rummage through your drawers or around the local junk shops. There could be a fortune just waiting for you in the form of a tiny rectangle of paper!

Udaipur's philatelic counter is at the Shastri Circle PO, but for a comprehensive philatelic bureau, try the Parliament Street Head Office, New Delhi 110001.

NB If you want to get a taste of the Victorian postal system, just go into your nearest post office and you will feel like you have gone back in time!


Modern policing seems to be reaching Udaipur at last, thanks to the modern concepts of Udaipur's youthful Police Superintendent, M.L.Lather and the go-ahead Additional S.P., Anand Shukla. Bit by bit they are looking at how the police force is running and working out how to make it more consumer-friendly and efficient.

The latest scheme to be introduced is the Police Assistance Point at the railway station. A sort of 'Fare's Fair Scheme' is operating from there, particularly for the benefit of tourists. The scheme is a zero-hassle exercise to ensure that rickshaws charge the approved rate and are obliged to take the customers where they, the customers ask to go.

As Mr.Anand Shukla sees things, this is only the start of good news for visitors. The two police chiefs have been working on the idea of a tourist police section to help and advise visitors in the local tourist hot spots, especially around the Jagdish Temple - City Palace area. The officers involved will be easily identifiable and will have special training in dealing with potential problems tourists may face, from loss of direction to harassment.

This is not to say that tourists in Udaipur are always facing problems. Actually Udaipur is generally fairly crime and problem-free, but the chiefs believe that prevention is better than cure. Tourist police officers will be carefully selected for suitability; they must be fluent in at least one Western language, friendly, helpful, locally-knowledgable and approachable. These are certainly qualities possessed by the two chiefs so they know what to look for in their team. Also on the agenda is a wide-ranging scheme for a much needed improvement of the traffic and parking situation. A huge increase in the amount of motorized transport is causing many problems to city streets that were designed for horses and pedestrians. Parking restrictions are already in force in one or two areas of the city, and will be extended. Lane markings are soon to be put down and motorists will be expected to obey them, and for those motorists who flout every rule in the book, BEWARE! There are yet more changes on the way.

The 43 year old Anand Shukla is researching policing methods with great care. He is looking at those of the USA and Western Europe for ideas. In his capacity as a member of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force he has travelled in at least 40 countries and speaks several languages. He served in Bosnia and has had training in Human Rights. He is a man of much experience, including a stint on an Adriatic nudist beach that seems to have added a new dimension to his life! He will be interested to hear directly from tourists if they have points to make about the local policing, and his office is to be found in the Collectorate next to the main Indian Airlines office.



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