A Building that was South India’s first electric cinema theatre
Injecting Shopper-Friendliness into it will add to its charm
If chess and writing have been my passion, philately and numismatics have been hobbies I have always pursued with enthusiasm. This includes collecting stamps / coins / first-day covers / bank notes, attending world fairs to embellish my album and buying collectibles with a futuristic value though not as an investment.
I did not let my interest wane even after I lost a big tin full of ancient coins that I had painstakingly collected over a few decades. I do not how, it just disappeared, possibly when we were moving homes in Chennai. I had not organised the collections well then, a key reason behind that loss.
Impressive Colonial Structure: During my recent visit to Chennai, I stopped by the Philatelic Bureau on Anna Salai (Mount Road) for a glimpse into what is on offer. It is housed in an imposing, impressive colonial building, which was once South India’s first electric cinema theatre, amid a vast open space in a prime area.
It was built in 1900 by Warwick Major and the region’s first movies were screened there. In 1915, he sold the building to the Postal and Telegraph Department after it stopped screening films.
Heritage monument: Luckily, P&T did not bring the building down, something the private sector will have done if it was the buyer. Still, it appears the rear portion was dismantled and the building itself is now on the country’s list of heritage monuments to be preserved.
The Philatelic Bureau appears to be manned by just a handful of staff who, it occurred to me, were not too keen on promoting its products.
It did not have much to offer as well and whatever they had were not displayed for the public to view. They were all hidden in steel cupboards and the staff did not seem to have much of a clue as to what is kept where.
Mercifully, there is a computer monitor in the front desk that presents the stamps and first-day covers on offer. A few albums are kept at the desk as well containing stamps sold there.
Images from the sites of Singapore Post and Singapore Philatelic Museum
I bought some stamps, first-day covers and annual collections there. They included a Tendulkar pack released in 2013 on his 200th Test match, a pack celebrating 100 years of Indian Cinema and one on Indian classical musicians.
No Receipt: I did not spend much there – just around Rs 6200. But I was not provided any receipt for it. They did not seem to have any electronic cash register (or even a bill book) for the purpose. Wonder how they capture the sales!
I wanted to know if they sell coins or if the city houses any numismatic society, but the Philatelic Bureau staff did not seem to know.
Private Sellers: In an adjacent room, I found some private individuals selling old stamps. It appears they come once or twice a week there.
Philately and numismatics are already dying hobbies. I wish the Philatelic Bureau in Chennai gets shopper-friendly and becomes more organised to attract stamp lovers. If it could engage staff who are enthusiastic about stamps then it will add to the positive experience!
G Joslin Vethakumar