Major (retd.) Dr Ritu Kalra, a practicing dentist in Shimla, possesses something worth which, if compiled, is a priceless treasure.

A philatelist by hobby, Dr Kalra has a countless collection of stamps as old from 1854 till date. She has in her possession, 7-8 trunks of stamps including all the stamps issued in India, and also stamps of all countries with various themes.

“Initially, my father was passionate for philately. I used to marvel upon the mysterious trunk, in which my father used to keep stamps. After completing my short service commission in Army, I continued with the legacy,” Dr Kalra shared with The Statesman.

“Me and my mother used to sit for hours together sort the stamps,” she said.

Her rarest and oldest treasure includes, world’s first bi-coloured stamp value of 4 annas of Queen Victoria issued in 1854, world’s first aircraft designed stamp called Air Mail, printed in India for the first time in Nasik Printing Press in 1918. She also dominates philately owning stamps issued in India, upon its Independence, on 21 Nov 1947, of Indian flag, Ashoka Chakra, Aeroplane with the inscription ‘Jai Hind’ on it.

Also being an ardent patriot, she has all the stamps of Gandhi, issued in India and abroad from one and half anna to 10 Rs. imprint of Gandhi on khadi, on cloth, postcard and other varieties.

She proudly exhibits the whole series of Queen Victoria, King Edward and King George, of the 19th Century. Her story of possessing the invaluable series of Edward, reminds one the dictum that when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.

She narrates her encounter with the Edward series of stamps with nostalgia and smile. “I didn’t have the whole collection of the stamps issued during Edward’s rule in England in 19th century. For that I got in touch with another philatelist, Joseph from Kerala. After discussion, one fine day, he sent me a packet of the stamps that I wanted,” Dr Kalra said.

She shared how being part of various philately groups and forums helps her get stamps by exchange, as gifts etc, even from abroad.

Her rare collection extends from the historical 121 stamps issued to help South Korea for Independence in 1951 to the 25 gold imposed stamps, which were brought from Switzerland by the Government of India.

The young philatelist has been participating in philately exhibitions at state and national level since 2003.

She has formed the Himachal Philatelic Club, conducting workshops for people interested in philately and has won several awards and honours for her contribution.

Even the postal department in Shimla recognises her contribution to preserve history. “She has great potential to expand philately out to nation. She is no doubt number one philatelist in Himachal,” said Ram Tirath Sharma, Senior Post Master, General Post Office, Shimla.