We Profiled 5 Indian Collectors' Unusual Collections - Homegrown

We Profiled 5 Indian Collectors' Unusual Collections

You always get told that material possessions shouldn’t be important, that it is inner beauty and enlightenment that should be your most treasured asset. Anyone that has had a full set of Pokemon cards, however, can tell you that this just isn’t true. Whether it’s first editions or pet rocks, sometimes a collection of objects can hold all the worth in the world. They can be pieces of history, small fragments of memories which would be long forgotten or just trinkets that brighten up your day—beauty (and highly specialised interests) lies in the eye of the collector.

While it can be called a hobby, it takes a lot to commit yourself to the life of a serious collector, which is often ignored by those on the outside looking in. Sourcing and curating the perfect set can often become a lifelong goal and the results are always mesmerising. The time, love and dedication that goes into procuring and maintaining these beloved articles is only truly understood by the people who collect them so to get a better understanding we decided to go directly to the source. We’ve got a sneak peek inside the world of 5 Indian collectors who are devoting themselves to their quirky treasures.

I. Siddharth Mohan Nair || 25, Collects Swadeshi (Indian) Fountain Pens

Homegrown: Tell us a bit about your collection.

Siddharth Mohan: Since for the last many years fountain pens aren’t in much demand, most of what is in my collection are old ones, vintage one may say. My collection includes pens made in Bombay, Bengal, Madras, Kerala and more! They include pens of different prices and size ranges, from Rs 10 to Rs 2,500 and from 3 cm to 20 cm. Apart from plastic and metal bodied pens, I also have pens made of ebonite (vulcanised rubber), a material which was brought as a replacement to ebony wood.

Since the days of advancement in plastic, ebonite for pens has taken back seat. My collection also includes pens that are handmade. Handmade fountain pens, which are usually big; are preferred by writers. I also have handmade pens that are as small as the size of a finger. I also have pens of swadeshi brands which Gandhiji, Nehruji, and Ambedkarji had used. My collection also include pens with different mechanisms for filling ink. I also have pens that cannot store ink. The dip pens or the still pens, as they are called, were used before the idea and means to store ink inside a pen came. With one dip in the ink pot one can write 5 to 6 words.

Most swadeshi fountain pen companies have shut shop. Few companies even made their own inks; I also have a collection of swadeshi inks too. Also nibs. I like it when people who are much elder to me get nostalgic hearing and seeing these as they might have used in during their school and college days. I find a peculiar type of happiness in this.

HG: What was the first item you ever collected?

SM: Though I started using fountain pens from the time I was studying in 8th standard, I did not keep them safely. And most of the pens I used then were Chinese ones. It is much later, after my college days, that the thought of collecting swadeshi fountain pens struck me. The first one that I have preserved is a full metallic Parker that my aunt gifted me. But the first in my swadeshi collection is a brown coloured Gama fountain pen which I bought for Rs 55. This one is, therefore, special to me.

HG: What’s the one thing that’s missing from your collection?

SM: Many a times when I speak to another pen collector or a person in an old stationary shop I get to hear of new swadeshi brands. They all are missing from my collection. I take down the names and try finding them but mostly to no avail. One thing that I have been looking for is an old stand/holder for the still pen. I have heard from old people that there used to be a small wooden stand which could hold the ink pot and the pen vertically. I will be excited if I find that.

HG: What’s the most prized item in your collection?

SM: The most prized item in my collection is a Wilson pen. It is grey in colour with a metallic top; I had found it from an old shop in Rajkot. The pen occupies the most special place in my collection because Dr Ambedkar used to write with a Wilson fountain pen. The company shut years back and it is very difficult to find a Wilson pen. Apart from this pen what I keep close to my heart is a still/dip pen. I like to show it to my friends and ask them to try writing using it.

HG: How would you describe your collection in one line?

SM: My collection is an evolution story of the swadeshi fountain pen.

HG: Do you remember the moment you first started the collection?

SM: I consider buying my first swadeshi fountain pen, a Gama, as the day I began this collection. That was on August 8, 2015.


II. Srishti Garg ||
19, Collects Unique Key Chains

Homegrown: Tell us a bit about your collection.

Shrishti Garg: My collection is has a lot of variety when it comes to the the number of key chains I have, which is now over 300. I like collecting ones which are unique, anything that catches my attention anywhere, it could be in a busy moving Mumbai Local, or any of the novelty showrooms. This hobby of mine has become so related to me, like an identity, that people just know what they have to get back for me while they returning from a trip, well at least if they feel like buying me something, and it’s nothing other than key chains.

I have my entire collection stored back in Mumbai in a way that all the metallic key chains have been kept separate in a sturdier box, to avoid rusting, and the delicate ones separate to avoid damaging. My key chain collection is something that I would continue to maintain, as it is not for breaking any world record and proving that I can be better, but just for the sake of having something that is constant and gives me sheer happiness in the form of memories and a sense of belonging to a place or person, every time I look at them.

HG: What was the first item you ever collected?

SG: It is a sea green grape shaped key chain which I got from a gift shop.

HG: What’s the one thing that’s missing from your collection?

SG: I have always wanted to have a braille key chain which you can deform and form like a cube to form various Braille letters. Right now that is one thing that I am missing in my collection.

HG: What’s the most prized item in your collection?

SG: I feel that for me, the most prized item in my collection would be this quirky Nimbu Mirchi” key chain, they represents the stereotype and beliefs related to evil eye. It has a text in Hindi attached to it that says “Buri nazar wale tera mooh kala. My grandmom gifted it to me back in 10th grade after returning from a trip to Dwarkadhish, sometime before my boards.

HG: How would you describe your collection in one line?

SG: My collection is a representation of me, full of colours and endless memories and stories to share.

HG: Do you remember the moment you first started the collection?

SG: I remember the entire scene very well. I had gone to a gift shop to buy my sister a gift with my dad, and that was the time when I had recently brought a new cycle and so was introduced to the idea of Keys and the Rings that guard them. I asked my dad to buy me one and it took me a lot of time to finally decide and stumble upon a sea green key chain with the form of a grape. But I think it is when I got my second key chain which was a green duckling, that I decided to continue with this act of collecting more of them. I still have all of them in a deteriorated condition, but nothing can trade for the value they have attached with them.


III. Shrutika Jain ||
23, Collects Indian Matchboxes

Homegrown: Tell us a bit about your collection.

Shrutika Jain: Flame, Twins, Glass, Ped, Sona, Shakti, Love Birds. Do they sound familiar?

I am an Indian Matchbox Hoarder; Match Chaser with a Match Heart. I have a small but growing population of Indian Matchboxes to the count of over 250.

I pick them from the most obscure places. I believe the Indian Streets have immense potential in sufficing my hunger. There I find the most unique ones that are not found in any of the shops in the vicinity. Because they are brought in by the floating populations who barge into the city from far off places; and thanks to their habit of littering - I spot my matchboxes wherever I go!

Not to forget, because of its low cast and easy availability; one does not mind disposing of it the second they buy it. It just makes collecting them a very easy task.

HG: What was the first item you ever collected?

SJ: I cant recall of the first matchbox that I ever collected, but yes, I do remember that the day started collecting it; I already had a number of them by the end of the day.

HG: What’s the one thing that’s missing from your collection?

SJ: I think I cant ever know as to what is missing from my collection; because every addition is unique and new.

But yes, there is this particular matchbox called- MummyJi’s No.1 with a picture of an Old Lady- which I absolutely want to own someday. Still on the lookout!

HG: What’s the most prized item in your collection?

SJ: I was in Munnar, 2 years ago on a morning walk up a hill top. I could barely spot anything in the surroundings other than greenery. When I reached the top, out of nowhere I spotted a matchbox on the ground that read- Balloon with three images of Gas Balloons. I was ecstatic to find such a unique piece when I was not at all expecting. I think this memory of a beautiful find was a sheer gift of god.

HG: How would you describe your collection in one line?

SJ: A bag full of humorous names and graphics, layers of dirt and memories of embarked journeys.

HG: Do you remember the moment you first started the collection?

SJ: It started off with a college research paper about 3 years ago, when I was so intrigued and awed by these beautiful boxes of weird names and graphics. It made me think deeper about their role in society and rightly so, I soon figured during the course of my research, that they served as tools of communication of Boycotting Swadeshi Goods amongst Indian’s in the British Era.

In my research paper titled- Spreading Social Awareness through matchstick boxes in the Grassroots Level; I redesigned matchboxes that would spread necessary social messages applicable in the current context such as- Feku Naka or Do not Throw with supported graphics targeted towards a common man.

During the course of my research, I started collecting these matchboxes in order to study the graphic styles and typography not realising when it converted into a passion of owning these beauties.

Check out her collection on Instagram


IV. Luv Mahtani ||
22, Collects International Postcards

Homegrown: Tell us a bit about your collection.

Luv Mahtani: My postcard collection began with my best friend sending me a postcard from every country on her journey across Europe 2 years ago. From Paris to Lisbon to Venice, the postcards were as beautiful as the words she wrote to me, describing all that she loved about wherever she was. From then I decided to ask every friend travelling to anywhere that wasn’t my hometown (Pune) to send me/bring back a postcard and write anything they wished on them.

More than 80 postcards from 30 cities worldwide, the collection keeps on growing with every trip my friends or I embark on.

HG: What was the first item you ever collected?

LM: In my postcard collection? The postcard from Venice, Italy. Otherwise, I also have a cassette collection of 70’s Rock and Disco music I inherited from my grand-uncle and I keep adding to it from all that I find at Juna Bazaar (Pune’s Chor Bazaar). So the cassettes have to be my first, technically.

HG: What’s the one thing that’s missing from your collection?

LM: Postcards from South American countries. Won’t take long, I’m sure.

HG: What’s the most prized item in your collection?

LM: A postcard with Van Gogh’s The Starry Night on the back. Not because it was a limited edition postcard or that it was sent from his native country, but because my friend who sent it wanted me to have the best postcard from her collection.

HG: How would you describe your collection in one line?

LM: A collection of memories I never made.

HG: Do you remember the moment you first started the collection?

LM: It all began in the Summer of 2015.

V. Sayali Goyal || 26, Collects Vintage Photographs Of Women

Homegrown: Tell us a bit about your collection.

Sayali Goyal: I have always been a thinker and observer of people and their behaviour. Topics of liberation, self-expression, human ideas of love and bonding in different cultures have interested me and in the past few years, I have been documenting these in a journal with my own ideas and notes. Stories by Rabindranath Tagore, Arundhati Roy’s ‘God of Small Things’, Luciana - which is a book based in Mexico that talks about women identity - have been reads I really enjoyed and related to. All these deal with complex emotions revolving around women in different times. I only recently realised this pattern of interest and started to work on projects that were also self-expressions of some sort as I am also a woman who is divided between my ideas of liberation and culture.

This project started (at that time unconsciously) in 2009. I was living in London, and I enjoyed visiting many vintage stores that had these rare images. I was just attracted to collecting women photos. After I had about 20 of them, all collected during travels in different times, I put them up on a wall in my studio. Earlier this year I decided to put these together into a project with some notes and thought that had been floating in my head as it all made sense. I feel very connected to this idea of perception of women, how they see themselves and how people see them, which is also a way they perceive the world. I feel photos can be great tools to take the dialogue ahead of beauty and perception and self.

Apart from these photos, I also have a few photos of men - mostly royalty - which I haven’t developed into a project yet. I also have been documenting my father’s childhood through a photo series, trying to understand how a personality built, as I truly believe that people are products of their journey and its the journey that interests me.

HG: What was the first item you ever collected?

SG: I got this photo of 2 women dressed in winter coats from Kingston flea market for 2 pounds. It immediately connected with me as I liked the idea of women supporting women. This photo doesn’t show them happy or sad, but I liked the youth of their face and almost like they have an energy of mischief. I like to think , why they must have taken this photo, why was that day special for them. This photo also has a small signature at the back which made it so authentic and personal, like I almost have a part of someone else’s memory who is unknown.

HG: What’s the one thing that’s missing from your collection?

SG: Since most of my travels have been in Europe and India, all my pictures are from these parts. I am very keen on images from Russia and South America. It would be so interesting to see those and add them to the collection.

HG: What’s the most prized item in your collection?

SG: It is this photo with a lady sitting on a table with the paper torn exactly where her face is. I found it exactly like this in a small shop in Jodhpur. Its so interesting how she is dressed in expensive clothes, suggesting beauty and royalty but her face, her true identity isn’t there. I like these half empty, torn, wounded kind of images.

HG: How would you describe your collection in one line?

SG: This collection explores identity of women of different times and tries to read the emotions in the images and understands that women from all parts of the world, all with different upbringing seek the same love, respect and acceptance.

HG: Do you remember the moment you first started the collection?

SG: This all happened during many years and only developed organically and unconsciously into a project, but earlier this year when I wanted to make it into a concrete compilation, I felt like a circle was complete. And this moment was special.


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