My grandfather was an avid stamp collector. He’d cringe every time my younger brother and I would go anywhere near his massive stamp collection. We were told not to remove stamps from their original condition or leave any fingerprints behind. For years, dada dedicated his time making sure his stamps were in pristine, laminated condition. He kept an updated list of all of the major holidays, science discoveries, and prominent figures from history.
In addition to his massive international stamp collection, he boasted a pretty awesome collection of U.S. Postal Service stamps (everything from the 1998 Lunar New Year Series, Alfred Hitchcock, arctic animals, Looney Tunes, to the 1994 Winter Olympics). Dada also meticulously calculated the cost of all of the stamps he collected on an annual basis.
On his birthday, he’d ask for stamps in exchange for presents or cake. We fondly knew him as the “dada with the massive stamp collection.” I can’t count the number of times he’d rearrange and alphabetize the stamps he collected from places I had never been to. My curious eyes would always divert to the filing cabinet where he placed all of his precious belongings, including his stash of photo albums and newspaper clippings from the ’70s.
He must have collected well over 100,000 stamps during his lifetime — from commemorative postage stamps of East Africa to Gandhi’s “1942 Quit India” movement. Every stamp would be a history lesson from dada. He knew details of each stamp’s issue date and the story behind each person, object, or design featured on the stamp.
Snail mail was his preferred mode of communication, and almost all of the USPS staffers in Rosemead, California, knew my dada. He’d look forward to sending letters to friends and family and letting the USPS work their magic. Every trip to the postal service would involve a purchase of freshly minted commemorative stamps that he would cherish and pass down to his grandchildren and their grandchildren.
On August 23, 2016, the U.S. Postal Service officially announced that it would commemorate the festival of Diwali in the form of its new Forever stamp on October 5, 2016 — the first Hindu stamp of its kind. The stamp features a clay diya placed alongside colorful rose petals. I’m sure my dada would have been so thrilled to hear this announcement on his birthday month.
Diwali, also known as the “Festival of Lights,” marks the start of the Hindu New Year. This year’s Diwali celebration falls on October 30, 2016. The celebration signals the triumph of goodness over evil and the willingness to receive the power of goodness, health, and prosperity.
The Diwali Forever stamp is USPS’ “first stamp honoring the Hindu religion,” according to the Washington Post. Some of the most recent Forever Stamps include “Eid Greetings,” which was issued earlier this summer, along with other religious celebrations and holidays.
This moment is for you dada, and the many stamp enthusiasts who have waited for this electrifying moment. (P.S. Happy early 84th Birthday. Remembering you, always). I will be sure to buy a Diwali Forever stamp in your memory.