What is the connection between the General Post Office, Bangalore—wildlife, sports, art, cinema and empowered Women? Find out as Philatelist and Storyteller Sonali Bhatia takes us through a journey into the world of penned messages.
If you’re wondering whether I’ve gone a little crazy, asking about the connection between the post and such diverse things, I’ll give you the answer. It is… stamps, postcards and books. All of which is to be found in the lovely Post Shoppe at the General Post Office, opposite the Vidhana Soudha. A visit to the GPO in early March this year became a shopping expedition. I wondered at how an institution, considered passé in this age of email, has succeeded in keeping itself relevant and current.
There were lovely sets of bookmarks for voracious readers. Twelve bookmarks in a set, each depicting stamps on a particular theme, with extensive information about the subject. A dozen bookmarks come in a designer box, with a little ribbon tied around, and cost Rs. 36 for a set. Themes include Wildlife, Flowers, Underwater Life, Olympic Games and so on.
For the younger ones, there are colouring books. Not just ordinary colouring books. Colouring books which combine ‘ABC’ with colouring and depict… Stamps. So, the stamp showing an ‘apple’ is depicted under ‘a’, with a big picture of an apple alongside for the child to colour. A fun way of getting the next generation enthused about philately. A similar book in Kannada is glossy, without the aspects of colouring. These books, hard-back on top-quality paper, cost just Rs. 175/- each.
There are books for adults too, containing some absolutely fascinating information. One tiny booklet, costing just Rs. 50, depicts countries across the world that have issued stamps in honour of Mahatma Gandhi. When I gifted this to a friend, there were exclamations, as she flipped the pages, “Really? That country has a Gandhi stamp?” Other, more voluminous books show special postmarks and first-day covers issued over the years, and myriad themes besides.
Greeting cards come at the unbelievable price of Rs. 10, with cartoons or illustrations and messages for festive occasions, birthdays and anniversaries.
Then there are the postcards. Postcards with Paul Fernandes’s incredible illustrations of Bangalore in the 1970s. Familiar spots, dear landmarks, brought lovingly to life with his sketches. A set of 25 postcards costs Rs. 250/-. At my last visit in early March, I was told they are currently out of stock. I hope they’re going to be re-printed! These quirky sketches include those of Mount Carmel College, the Frazer Town Railway Crossing, India Coffee House, Bangalore Club, Koshy’s and more.
There’s a set of postcards showing stamps with the theme Indian Cinema (Rs. 50 for eight postcards). There are the great women of India, as they have been depicted on stamps. Postcards that show places of worship in Karnataka – bringing out the beauty of the architecture. There’s a bumper set of postcards showing Indian Post over the years – thirty-two postcards for Rs. 150, but offered at a 50% discount. I have lost track of how many of these I have purchased, to either mail out or to gift to people.
There are philatelic albums, for those who wish to store and display their collections. An album with twenty folders costs under Rs. 50.
Aside from the Post Shoppe, it is truly fascinating to visit the Philatelic Section at the GPO. Artistic, colourful stamps of various denominations and various themes make all pre-arranged budgets and solemn resolutions not to over-spend go haywire. There are stamps in the usual rectangular or square shape, then there are the diamond-shaped ones and the round ones as well. These stamps commemorate events, locations, personalities, institutions, and lately, even fashion!
And here’s something that may come as a surprise to you. The Bangalore GPO has a special post-mark, showing the Vidhana Soudha. A bit about post-marks, or cancellations. These are the inked (rubber-stamped) marks that show the date and place at which the letter originated. There are 15000 post offices in India, of which 200 have special post-marks. Karnataka tops the list of special post-marks, with thirty-seven designated post-offices having these marks. A visit to the philatelic section of the GPO gets you a date-stamp showing the magnificent structure.
A visit to the GPO Bangalore is fascinating – for its diversity and artistry!
Sonali Bhatia is a Bengaluru based writer and storyteller.