This Rotarian is as proud of his “100-month stint in Rotaract,” as he is of his collection of Rotary stamps with First Day covers from over 50 countries in all the five continents.
Meet Bharat Merchant, a member of RC Bombay Seaface, RID 3141, who has been collecting Rotary stamps and first day covers for the last 30 years. The interest of this passionate Rotarian in this organisation goes back to half a century “when I was the president of the Rotaract Club of Bombay. I was in college and the founder-director of the first Rotaract club in the city of Bombay and my brother was the founder-president.”
He remained a Rotaractor for 100 months. “During that time, I got so interested in Rotary that after my college days (when his Rotaract journey ended) whenever I or one of my friends travelled, we would make inquiries about Rotary stamps or first day covers. But I met with little success, getting maybe one stamp/cover in two years,” he says.
During the subsequent years Merchant got busy with his business (owning a factory) and joined Rotary only in 1997, as a member of RC Bombay Seaface. As a full-fledged Rotarian, he started pursuing his passion for Rotary stamps more diligently; whenever he or his friends travelled overseas they would look out for and buy Rotary stamps. “But I soon learnt that the best way to get my hands on Rotary stamps was through philatelic shops. One of the philatelic shop owners in Bombay understood my interest, and whenever he found or got a Rotary stamp he would call me and I would immediately rush and grab it; the older the stamp the more I would get excited.”
He would pay a princely price of ₹1,000 — it was a princely sum 15–20 years ago; “the price actually depended on the country and the demand.”
His passionate pursuit has made Merchant a proud owner of at least 500 Rotary stamps and 100 first day covers. The oldest Rotary stamp he has dates back to 1948 and is from Brazil (see picture). He explains that most Rotary stamps are issued on special occasions such as “the silver, golden, diamond jubilee of Rotary in a country; some are issued for conferences, conventions, CoL, Everest expeditions and of course PolioPlus events. The maximum number of Rotary stamps were issued in 2005 during the centenary celebrations of Rotary, including in India.”
With interest in stamp collection decreasing gradually, he is seriously toying with the idea of “giving my entire collection to RC Bombay West. They have their own building in a Rotary service centre in Juhu, Mumbai, and could put my stamps on display there so that many people could enjoy it.”
An avid Rotarian, Merchant, who is now 70, enjoys most “being able to do social service for the community through Rotary. For 25 years I have been a very active member of my club, always a member of the board but never the president.”
Asked why, he smiles and says, “It just didn’t happen, but it’s ok; Rotary gave me an opportunity to be of service to my community. That matters the most to me. Every city I visited in India, I never failed to attend a Rotary club meeting in that city and exchange flags.”