Dubai: Ahead of the UAE’s Mars Mission, an Indian expat in Dubai is over the moon. His collection of stamps, issued in 1964, show the country’s vision about its space missions that became real decades after its formation.
Nandlal Hiranand Mirchandani, who runs a real estate and catering businesses, is proud that his huge collection of postage stamps includes a series of stamps issued by the then Dubai Ruler late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum to mark international outer space achievements.
The stamps commemorated American astronauts’ first successful trip to outer space, under the theme ‘Honouring Astronauts.’
One of those stamps had hit the headlines in 2016 when His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, tweeted its image on the occasion of the UAE Space Agency’s second anniversary.
In his tweets, Sheikh Mohammed said: “A stamp issued by my father Sheikh Rashid 50 years ago, celebrating space sciences. We dreamed of such future ideas. Today we have a Dh20 billion space sector, with a mission to Mars driven by a wholly Emirati team of scientists.
“Dreams begin with ideas, a word, an image or even a postage stamp. As generations work to fulfil our dreams, we develop concrete realities.”
In an exclusive interview to Gulf News, Nandlal confessed that he was unaware of Sheikh Mohammed tweeting about a stamp which is in his collection of around 10,000 stamps from over 65 countries. He said he had gone through the stamps again recently and was stunned when he realised these stamps had a futuristic vision and he himself had become a resident witnessing the country’s growth in space science.
The stamp that Sheikh Mohammed had tweeted and the rest of them in the vintage series carried their prices in Indian currency units Rupees and Naya Paisa respectively. That was something that added to the happiness of Nandlal. “That also shows the strong connection between the UAE and India even before the formation of this country. I have UAE stamps with prices in Riyal and Dirhams also. As an Indian expat living in the UAE, I am proud to have these stamps that tell a lot about the history of this country.”
As the UAE is making its big leap in the space sector with the Hope Probe scheduled to enter Martian Orbit on Tuesday night, Nandlal said he felt surreal when he thought about the vision of the leaders of the nation. “I am surprised about the great vision of our Rulers back then. Postage stamps are literally a stamp of proof for that. We are very much blessed that we are in a country with such a futuristic vision.”
The 51-year-old father of two said he had collected these stamps and several others during his childhood in Ajmer in the north Indian state of Rajasthan. “Many early migrants to the Gulf countries and Africa from India were from my place. I used to collect the stamps from them. Some were my relatives, some neighbours. If I had multiple copies of stamps, I also used to exchange them with other children collecting stamps.”
He cannot remember from where he had got these special stamps. However, Nandlal vouches that he had never bought any of the stamps in his collection. “At that time, there was no internet. We only had books and newspapers. Stamp collection was a big hobby. Stamps gave us knowledge and idea about different countries.”
Stamps from the UAE had always fascinated him. But he said he had never imagined that his future would be in this country, which he has been calling his home for about 30 years. He is in possession of several old UAE stamps in different sizes and shapes. But, the space series remains closer to his heart because of the futuristic vision attached to it.
Wishing the UAE’s Mars Mission great success, he said he hoped to show the stamps in his collection to the students here. “I want to make an exhibition of my stamps and show to all the schoolchildren and teach them and train them to visualise their dreams and create a vision or find out their goals. I hope it will make them ambitious and assertive in their lives.”