When I was studying in 3rd and 4th standards, I used to get repetitively asked by teachers and neighbors -
‘What’s your hobby?’
‘Reading books and listening to music’
Was my standard reply. But I was having a few problems with this approach. First, teachers used to ask so many students and almost all of them told the same thing. So, when the chance came to me, they suddenly become vexed with the answer and tell, ‘Don’t tell me the same thing’!!
Even if they did accept it, they immediately ask me who my favorite author was. At that age I was reading only Tin Tin and I had no clue that any book could have an author Of course I was well versed in Tinkle, but someone else said the same thing and got scoldings! So, comics were out and I had not started reading Famous Five’s and Secret Seven’s (yet).
Music was even worser. Some teacher asked me what my favorite genre in music was (What a question to ask a 5th standard student? Ask me now, I will still blink ). I used to reply, ‘Illayaraja?’ and the whole class would start laughing. As if they had any idea about genre’s! Knowledge about what was wrong and when everyone could laugh together was at a high level in my school!
I was not yet adept enough to imagine some different hobbies that I could say. During my sixth standard, I decided enough was enough and asked my friend to give me some ideas about new hobbies. He told me to say ‘Coin collection’ and he would say ‘Stamp collection’.
Suddenly teachers started looking at me in a different light. They said, ‘Good. Keep it up’. I was stumped. Was this such a premium hobby or what? My interest in these hobbies increased instantly!
It started with coin collection. Actually currency. (Foreign coins and currency, not Indian).
One of my friends had a big Singapore Currency (1 Dollar) with him and I got it from him (Don’t remember what I gave in exchange). Currency, it seems, was in demand among the coin collectors. Since I had one, I was accepted as a coin collector at school!
Since we were living in flats, I had quite a number of friends around there and some of them had a few coins as well. So, I started exchanging coins with anyone who would want to.
That’s what coin collectors do – Exchange coins. A typical conversation will go like this,
‘I have one Australia. What can you give me for it’
‘Australia is not so rare, I can give you two Singapore or two England’
‘No, this is a big coin’
‘Ok, one Singapore and one UAE?’
‘I still think its not a fair deal. See, I have a rare coin – CCCP (Russia). What can you give for this?’
‘Two Singapore (coins) and one Nepal Currency?’
‘Not a bad deal’
We were speaking business back then people! One rare coin can fetch two or more easy (to get) coins or another rare coin. So, we exchanged these coins with each other sometimes to grow the number of coins, sometimes to get a currency, sometimes to get a different coin collection, etc.
But the most important reason was to show-off (and of course, to answer teachers/ neighbors).
Wasn’t it fun? Of course, it was. A couple of guys from another class suddenly come to my class during break and ask to see me. We used to discuss for a few minutes and when I get back to my place my friends would ask, ‘What did you discuss with them?’. I would reply, ‘Oh, its about exchanging foreign coins we have’. And they used to go, ‘Wow’
Stamp collection was not as exciting. That was because almost all the stamps were bought from a shop and we used to stick it in a stamp collection notebook. Almost everyone were doing this and there was not much scope for exchanging them (though it did happen rarely).
So, we lost interest in stamp collection soon. In fact, I even gave my whole stamp book (with a lot of stamps) to a friend in my 9th Standard for free. But I never parted with my coins. Yeah I did search for them when writing this article, but was not able to find them. But I know its somewhere in the house! Or isn’t it? Not sure!
A lesson that should have been learned back then was somehow missed – We always cherish and are proud of something that we earned/ worked hard to get. But what we buy/ get without efforts don’t have the same importance (except maybe for a few initial days). In my case, it did not/ does not have any importance at all.