After nearly 50 years in the stamp trade I guess I have pretty much seen it all, yet quite often I will glance at the cover page of one of our catalogues and get a jolt of excitement from one of the images staring back at me.
This time it was from our Sandafayre catalogue for the 27th September and there at the top is a rather gentle looking young man wearing an amazing head-dress confection with a distant, whimsical expression.
The young man is in fact the Maharaja Yashwant Rao Holkar II, the Maharaja of Indore, looking out from the 1927 5r stamp, SG 32. Somehow the mysterious “Mona Lisa” like sublime smile engages me making me first look up the stamp in my Gibbons catalogue, noting the year of issue and the subject of the portrait and then move to the screen to “Google” him.
What strikes me is the strange juxtaposition between the exotic bygone age of those latter day Indian Princes, holding the power of life and death over their subjects and the modern world that this young man inhabited. Educated in 1920's England and who died at the early age of only 53, at the beginning of the “swinging” 1960's.
Invested with the full powers of a ruling Maharajah in 1930, he oversaw the merging of Indore into the new Indian State in 1947, closing a long chapter in the history of India and finally working for the United Nations from 1956, going from demi-god to ordinary citizen.
What a transformation he would have seen in those 50 odd years, from Feudal Kingdom to part of a modern Super-state. Perhaps the wistful gaze from the centre of the stamp dreams of Tiger hunts of old or was he yearning to return to the modern world of London or Los Angeles or maybe he is simply wondering “what on earth will I look like on a stamp in all this get-up?”.
Whatever we read into our stamps they never cease to enthrall and entertain me and make me fall in love with the hobby over and over again.