Life & Style | People

He has the stamp of a winner

Having collected stamps for 48 years, 'King' Alex meticulously organises these beloved collectibles into albums organised by continent, country and theme.

  • By Andy van Smeerdijk, Features Editor, 4Men
  • Published: 00:29 March 14, 2008
  • Friday

  • Image Credit: Arshad Ali/Gulf News
  • Alexander David is quite sure he's the "undisputed king". The Indian, who now lives in Ajman, is a passionate stamp collector.

Alexander David is quite sure he's the "undisputed king". Although he doesn't say what exactly he's king of, you have to suspect it's stamps. The Indian, who now lives in Ajman, is a passionate stamp collector.

And with more than 10,000 stamps in his albums, which he's more than happy to share with you, he's just getting started.

Having collected stamps for 48 years, ‘King' Alex meticulously organises these beloved collectibles into albums organised by continent, country and theme.

Yet it's not a matter of being a filing system, Alex sees the albums more as form of storytelling, a way of illustrating the history and geography of the world.

"Each page of the album is graphically designed and each page has a message in store for the viewers," he says. "Moreover it gives you knowledge and fun. You can feel the Alex touch on each page – a magic touch."

Taking pride of place are the first stamps he received from his cousin.

"I still treasure the first stamps that were given to me," he says. "When my cousin Saro George visited our home in Kerala in 1960 during her vacation from Malaysia [then Malaya], I happened to mention my interest in collecting stamps and asked if she could give me a few stamps from Malaysia. She gave me 13 stamps."

The symbolism wasn't lost on him. Alex, who believes in putting a positive spin on everything, even does so with the number 13.

"Thirteen is a lucky number for me. I landed in the UAE on February 13, I joined work on February 13 and
I even got married on February 13," he says, laughing.

His all-consuming interest in stamps was inspired by his father, whose stamps date from about 100 years ago. "It was in my blood ... my father had a passion for stamps.

It was because of him that I decided to pursue this hobby. Now it has passed on to my son, who is currently in India. My wife has been my main strength in enabling me to build up my stamp collecting.

"I collect all the new stamps from the Philatelic Bureau here in the UAE [at the Karama Post Office] as well as in India.

When she is on holiday in India, my wife sends me all the new stamps affixed to every letter she sends. All those who know me have contributed to my collection by offering whatever stamps they have."

He shares his hobby with everyone he meets and many of the young people he's mentored over the years – who are now spread across the world – gladly post him letters.

Yet while ‘The King' does wax lyrical about the postage stamp, he's well aware of the communication revolution.

He realises that due to the rise of e-mail and the other electronic transfer media, snail mail no longer rules supreme.

That said, Alex believes the demise of stamps isn't imminent, they still have a niche. "Stamps will never disappear because most of the government notification, letters, book post, magazine and registration are sent by post," he explains.

"Moreover, each country will still have to depend on stamps to commemorate special occasions, festivals, important people and events by releasing stamps to mark the occasion."

Alex has many stamps from the UAE, including many produced before it became a federation. And if he had to design his own stamps, he's certain of what he'd like to do.

"I would like to portray the emirate's buildings through stamps – they would be known as the seven wonders of Dubai ... the Burj Al Arab, the Dubai Metro, Burj Dubai, Mall of the Emirates, Palm Jumeirah, Palm Jebel Ali and other icons."

While all of his stamps are franked – which for many stamp collectors means they've lost their worth – their value to Alex is not measured in monetary terms.

"My most important stamps are the ones from countries that have changed their name: for example CCCP, which was the name of stamps issued by the former Soviet Union, now split into
14 independent republics."
he explains.

"My dearest stamp is about 100 years old, from India in the pre-independence era. I also have stamps which were handed over to me by my guru [my father] from the US, Iraq, Canada and Egypt."

Although he hasn't seen a great deal of the world, Alex feels that he's learnt a great deal about it through his hobby.

"I have been able to "travel" to these places through the stamps I collect," he says. "I have learnt about the culture, history, places, monuments and important events."

Through sharing his albums with others, he hopes to continue the legacy of postal stamps.

"I believe the pictorial view of stamps will always have a more lasting impression in our thoughts than reading books," he says.

"Moreover, to prepare details or a brief introduction on a particular country or person or even events, one has to do a lot of research by referring to encyclopaedias, the internet and other sources.

During my school days, the subjects I loathed the most were the social sciences, history and geography – the reason being I could never remember places, countries, events or dates, but once I started stamp collecting, it became more interesting to learn about social studies."

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