Prized Possessions

I was looking at saarang applications forms which asked me to write an article on any item on curio stall. I was thinking of things I had, which were worthy of being presented to a museum. Only a few things crossed my mind.

Several years back, I and my bro had an interest in philately and coin collection. Ok, it was my brother alone. I was just curious enough to look into the collection he had. Though our collection didn’t grow, we did have a prized possession of any soldier. Yes, it is a military medal. It was given to my grand dad during the Second World War. He was in army until he retired before joining postal and telegraphs dept. Being in army and, more importantly, being on the victorious side, he got to advance through several African countries before reaching Europe. He tells me about those days when every soldier in his battalion was asked to change their names to sound more Islamic (Obviously Mr. Sastry wouldn’t work). I do not remember what exactly he changed his name to. Only way to guess which country they were in during arduous voyage was to look out for signs on the biscuits. He also talked about dense African jungles and how water was the only means of transportation in getting through them. He had talked about time when once in a week, on a Sunday I guess, soldiers had to chase dogs and shoot them. I kind of hate this but soldiers have to follow orders. Among so many things, I am thankful for the fact that he never described how war ravaged the countries or how he lost his friends (obviously he would have) in the war. I have absolutely no inclination in asking him about it. When he vividly describes some of those day, he talks about exciting parts of being in armed forces. I guess only my grandfather says this: “unfortunately, the war ended…….” He continues, “……one more week, I would have been in Paris, the most beautiful city in the world.” I once asked him, “What was his contribution to quit India movement?” He laughed before he replied, “I was with a huge crowd, and I threw a stone and broke a lamp post…that’s it.”

The war gave him two medals and a ribbon. The ribbon and a medal is lost now, nobody except him knew its value. The medal is still with me… safe. The army thought him great deal of discipline. He is 80 now, still shaves every day, gets up 5 in the morning and very strong for his age. Hardly 10 years back, he could walk a lot faster than anybody in our family. I my uncle’s home where he and my grand mom stay, he is the most reliable morning alarm.

Coming back to story of stamp and coin collection, at the same place where we found the medal, we also found coin in form of a ring; it is called ‘thooth moor kaas’ in Kannada. I haven’t seen such a currency coin anywhere else, would be interested in knowing more about them. We also found a 10 paisa copper coin whose material value was more than coin’s face value. It will wonderful to know more about them. It is hard to find genuine coins today. The older generations in my family did have such coins. But, they some how failed to learn the value of those antiques. What is more saddening is the fact that some people even today do not understand the value. Any historic article is condemned in the name of religion by hardliners. I am speaking of Taliban destroying Buddhist statues in Afghanistan. In the name of development, the past is forgotten. There are number of historically important articrafts in my state of Karnataka, but it has no takers when it comes to maintenance, not even the government. Its not about having a retro wall paper or a retro Winamp skin. Possessions for which some people craved for years before is now ignored. From what I remember, the people of Bhaghat Singh’s village have preserved the pen using which his hanging judgment was passed. It is time we value them more than we value the sweat shirts or bubble gums chewed by Britney Spears (yes, the bubble gum was auctioned for a short time on a web site before was removed).

Prized possessions like cherished memories stand out in our minds. Maro was asking me if I would feel emotional when I leave this place. My answer was that I did not feel that way when I left my school or college. I will feel the same when I leave this place. Now when I think of it, of course, the cherished memories are the biggest prized possessions one can have. More than the lost medal and ribbon, my grand dad has bright memories of his days as a soldier. It keeps him young. We have our memories too. Hopefully our minds remain young.

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