Follow Mint Lounge

Latest Issue

Home > News> Talking Point > Year-End Special: Finders keepers

Year-End Special: Finders keepers

Five collectors, each on the lookout for the next item to add to their wide and quirky range of memorabilia

Chirodeep Chaudhuri. Photo: Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint
Chirodeep Chaudhuri. Photo: Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint

In a video interview with music magazine Guitar World last year, Keith Richards, the legendary guitarist and founding member of The Rolling Stones band, was asked to choose the one guitar he couldn’t do without. The Englishman has a collection of 3,000 guitars, but he said he would go for a Fender Telecaster he had received in 1970, because “we’re kind of married".

That’s just how collectors are. Some name the things in their collection, some spend years trying to find an elusive item, while many feed off the thrill of chasing a rare old object. Here are five such collectors.

A Gandhi in every corner

Chirodeep Chaudhuri, 44

Photographer, Mumbai

Collects Gandhi figurines

The first one: I was travelling to the Sonpur Mela (in Bihar) in 2007 when I met a guy on the road selling plaster stuff—weird angel statues, flower pots. In the midst of that was a white plaster figurine of Mahatma Gandhi, which I picked up for a friend. One thing led to another, and the collection grew from there.

How big is your collection and where do you keep it?

There are 46 Gandhis around the house. We used to keep them in the open but now they’re behind glass so the cats can’t knock them over.

Why do you collect?

There’s this very weird collector tendency in me. It goes back—my grandfather had a habit of collecting little things. My mother also has this tendency, and I think I get it from her. People who aren’t collectors may not understand this, but you love the chase. With Gandhi, I had the resources to be able to collect this, and there’s no dearth of what you will find in India.

On the wish list: I’m not looking out for the mass-produced any more. There was this craftsperson in Odisha who would make these figurines of Lakshmi out of grain. I asked him if he could make me a Gandhi. A little bit of handholding needed to be done. The end result didn’t quite look like Gandhi, but he added his own touch, like the red watch at the waist. What I would like to procure in the future is stuff of that kind. If I come across a craftsperson doing weird stuff, then can I get that guy to imagine a Gandhi for me? Then it starts getting quirkier and quirkier.

—As told to Uday Bhatia

Ronak Singh Bhasin. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

The write companion

Ronak Singh Bhasin, 23

Film-maker, New Delhi

Collects typewriters

The first one: I purchased a typewriter that was going at a dirt-cheap price (Rs500). It was an electronic typewriter. They have very little value but are fairly good companions for writing. I got it, took it home, put batteries in it, and it worked.

When did you start and how big is your collection?

I started collecting at the end of 2014. When my father went to the US in 1995, he brought back an Underwood 315 from a garage sale. It came in a pretty neat black vinyl case. I grew up loving it. I still have it and it still works. At the height of my collection (till 2015), I had 45 typewriters, but because of storage issues at home, I sold some to other collectors, while some I gifted to my friends. Now I have around 12-15 typewriters.

The most expensive typewriter you bought?

It was a Royal Typewriter (Model O) with glass keys, which I bought for around Rs5,000.

On the wish list: Many! An IBM Selectric, Olivetti Valentine and the golden Royal Quiet Deluxe Portable typewriter (the kind author Ian Fleming owned), to name a few.

—As told to Radhika Iyengar

Shrutika Jain. Photo: Indranil Bhoumik/Mint

Every matchbox has a story

Shrutika Jain, 24

Freelance communication designer, Kolkata

Collects matchboxes

The first one: I can’t remember the first matchbox in my collection, but it was definitely picked up from the road somewhere between my college and home in Navi Mumbai.

When did you start and how big is your collection?

I started collecting these in late 2013. My collection now has 442 matchboxes, which includes 23 international ones from countries like Iran and Sweden.

Why do you collect and where do you keep them?

Apart from being intrigued by the colours, graphics used on matchboxes, I make observations and study Indian society through them. I keep them in a wooden trunk.

On the wish list: There are still some that I haven’t found; for example, a matchbox that has a photo of a saasu maa (mother-in-law) and reads Mummi Ji’s No.1. I have been looking for this one since 2014.

—As told to Nitin Sreedhar

Sujit Sumitran. Photo: Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint

Mother culture, bottled up

Sujit Sumitran, 56

Executive & leadership coach and artisan bread baker based in Goa

Collects sourdough starters

The first one: I started making starters in earnest, but it went bad. I was discussing this on a Facebook page when a baker in San Francisco offered me two natural starters (ecosystem of yeast and bacteria)—San Francisco and Italian Ischia. He mailed them to me from Nevada. They were dehydrated and came in two little pouches and with his instructions. I brought them back to life in a day. That’s how my journey started in 2014.

How big is your collection and where do you keep it?

Eight starters. The others that were gifted are the Bavarian Black Death (circa 1633), the Californian Gold Rush (circa 1850), the Oregon Trail (circa 1847) and Vienna. The whole-wheat ones I made are Chinsi (made from a fermented beer culture) and Mamma.There’s an old refrigerator which I use just to store the starters and grains.

Why do you collect?

I started baking with commercial yeast, but it got boring. Plus, I had read enough about the health benefits of sourdough bread and what started off as a hobby is now my passion. Most people now call me The Bread Whisperer. Sourdough starters are living organisms that need to be fed flour and water. I feed my starters every two weeks. It is not very expensive, but it is a time-consuming process.

On the wish list: As humans, our diets aren’t as diverse as they should be. My wish is that people start looking at diversity in their food, ideally with different kinds of grains. I am very fascinated by heirloom grains, which have not gone through the hybridization process. For instance, the Paigambari wheat, which looks like coriander seeds, traces its origins to the Indus Valley civilization and still grows in Punjab.

—As told to Nitin Sreedhar

Shahid Datawala. Photo: Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint

Iron man

Shahid Datawala, 43

Artist, Mumbai

Collects antique irons

The first one: I used to be fascinated with old irons, especially cast-iron ones. We had one in my family house and I was very taken by its design. One of the first irons I bought was from Chor Bazar in New Delhi back in 1995.

How big is your collection and where do you keep it?

I have 14 irons and they are all displayed around the house.

Why do you collect?

I am fascinated by design and my collection is based on a certain sensibility of design. For me, it’s not about the value of the thing, but it has to work with my aesthetics.

On the wish list: I’ve been wanting to get objects like clocks, telephones and even scissors that were designed in the early 20th century, during the Bauhaus or art deco period. Some of the German-designed scissors are exquisite and even become unaffordable after a while. Also, if I ever come across another iron that appeals to me, I will certainly negotiate for it.

—As told to Tanuj Kumar

Next Story