City Hangout – Stamps Corner, Mohan Singh Place Market
A perfect city secret.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Everybody wants publicity.
The Delhi Walla is wrong.
The other day I discovered a place you won’t find on Google — until now.
Stamps Corner, a little shop, number 32, in the basement of Mohan Singh Place, hasn’t been written about anywhere. Not many will miss it if it shuts down tomorrow. And yet, it is one of those special landmarks that give a city its character.
But how to write about this place?
The owner doesn’t want to talk. “Please don’t write about me… So far, I have never given an interview, haven’t allowed myself to be profiled, haven’t told anybody of my shop’s history… and now I’m old and I want to keep it that way!”
But I want to sing a song about the Stamps Corner — after all it’s as public as any shop. So I’ll still do it but gently and won’t even share the shop’s photos though I took a few. (I’ll simply show you a scene of the market’s basement.)
The board outside the shop says: “Stamps & Coins for Collection”. Inside, the walls are panelled with dark wood. Furniture includes an old metal almirah and a table with a deliciously worn-out sunmica top. The cabinets are stuffed with files and folders.
Besides showcasing stamps and coins from across the world, the display shelves are also stacked with old letters, pamphlets, souvenirs and books. We wanted to buy an old fading French postcard but the owner said it was a part of his private collection.
I was instantly charmed — such a delight to come across a merchant so possessive about his goods that he just doesn’t want to sell them!
Frankly speaking, I didn’t discover the place. It was directed to me by a home-sick Delhi guy currently in Singapore.
Few weeks ago I got this email from that man, Akshay Chopra, and I see no better way to end this piece than to quote from it: “I used to go to the Stamps Corner 20 years ago during my school days. About five years ago, during one of my trips back home, I decided to check in on the owner. He was still very optimistic about the future of philately but I have never seen anybody else in that store, ever. It feels like his goal is to just sit in his shop and read the newspaper everyday. He talks of stamps the way a businessman talks of commodities and land. Who knows how long he, Stamps Corner — or stamps — will last.”
Shop no. 32 is somewhere here
Thanks Mayank for indulging my homesickness and writing so beautifully. Delhi is full of so many obscure pockets where, as you put it so well, her character resides.
Till this article was published, the only thing one could find about Stamps Corner on Google was a small mention in a Japanese tourist’s travel blog, in Japanese. I have a feeling that’s about to change 🙂
For those of you who stop by to say hi to uncle, pick up a few ‘first day covers’ or stamp sets for young ones in your family. Who knows, one of them might find their calling like uncle did!
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