Today, we live in a modern world where emails and WhatsApp are the ways of communication, a few years ago, when there was no WhatsApp we had SMS service. But if we go back further, a few decades, we will realise that before the email system was introduced, we had fax through which we could send messages and documents. But let me take you back to an earlier era and talk about the days when there was no email or fax, what did we do? Well, we simply used to send letters, let us remember the red and black post box which was used to drop in our letters and after a few days it would reach its destination.
Nowadays, the red and black box is a rare sight in some countries and it is out in the museum. But if we think back we will realise the beauty of sending handwritten letters to our loved ones, going to a post office, weighing our parcel or the letter sealed in a pretty envelope and then selecting a beautiful and attractive postage stamp which was pasted and the letter or parcel was sent ahead.
Today, a postage stamp is uncommon but in some countries and places, this traditional way of communication still exists. Postage stamps have always been a major way to promote culture and traditions. Having images of festivals, musical instruments, historic monuments and even dance forms have been a common thing on postage stamps.
It is said that, in 1680 William Dockwra, an English merchant in London, and his partner Robert Murray established the London Penny Post and that is when the stamp in a form of a seal was introduced. Later, the first paper postage stamp, the “Penny Black”, became available for purchase on May 1, 1840, designed by the legend Sir Rowland Hill, who was from the United Kingdom of Great Britain. Queen Victoria Image was the first but what followed after that were images on postage stamps that would popularise countries and its uniqueness.
If I talk about India, all our classical dances have been featured on our postage stamp such as Bharatnatyam, Kathak, Kathakali, Odissi, Kuchipudi and others have all been colourfully put on the Indian postage stamp. Even our folk dances like Reangs of Tripura in the East, the Garasias of Rajasthan in the West, the Kinners of Himachal Pradesh in the North and the Kundividians and the Nairs of Kerala in the South have all found their image on our prestigious postage stamp.
Padmashree Prathibha Prahlad is one of the rare Indian dancers who have been featured on an Indian postage stamp. I remember long back in an interview Prathibha Ji talking about how she felt being on a postage stamp she said, “The stamp story is pretty unique. I got a call from the department of posts and telegraphs one day in 2011 and the conversation was about releasing a ‘first day cover’ (for stamp collectors) with the logo of my festival Delhi International Arts Festival and it’s mission statement. I was super excited because, in so many ways, this was the biggest honour and recognition for a festival, which was now a big brand that I had created and toiled night and day to make it a reality.”
She further added, “When my colleague went to have a one-on-one meeting with the officers, she was told that she should send a recent portrait photo of mine. She did not realise why and did as she was told. On the day of the release, which was the opening day of a fabulous exhibition of stamps and first day covers, I was told that they had decided to honour me with a special stamp of my own of `5. It took me a while to realise that I could now send letters with my own stamp on the envelope. Of course, it was a limited edition release and I’ve to keep some as a badge of honour and pride.”
Internationally too, the Indian origin dancers have graced postage stamps. In 1968 in Singapore, Mrs Santha Bhaskar, a renowned Bharatnatyam dancer was featured on a Singaporean postage stamp costing 10 cents, which was issued then to promote racial harmony. Today, I feel extremely happy to inform you all that this is the first time that Bhutan Government has issued an official postage stamp with dancer-choreographer Sandip Soparrkar and supporting his worldwide initiative ‘Dance for a Cause’.
It is not very often that a dancer’s image appears on a postage stamp and it is done in recognition of his or her work. Being an avid Latin and Ballroom dancer, I feel proud to see Sandip Soparrkar’s picture clicked by photographer Akash Kumbhar and the logo of his worldwide noble initiative Dance for a Cause, designed by renowned artist Nilesh Auti on an official postage stamp of Bhutan.
A few weeks back, during the stamp launch, Bhutan Postal Corporation Ltd representative said, “Dance for a Cause is a heartwarming initiative by Sandip Soparrkar that has received international appreciation, be it United Nations or the government of India, all have praised the worldwide social awareness work that Dance for Cause has been doing. This stamp costing 30 Bhutanese Ngultrum issued by the Bhutan Postal Corporation Ltd celebrates and recognises 10 years of Dance for Cause.”
In the past decade, Soparrkar has raised awareness for issues such as animal rights, cancer awareness, aids, care for mentally challenged individuals, drugs awareness and more. Last year the Government of India honoured his initiative with the National Excellence Award too.
This is the first time ever that an official postage stamp has been issued in the name of any international style dancer by the government of Bhutan. Speaking on the stamp being issued by Bhutan government, Sandip Soparrkar said, “I am excited and humbled and I dedicate this postage stamp to each and every one who has supported and encouraged this initiative it is a proud moment not just for me but for the entire dance fraternity of our nation and I hope many dancers like me can get this opportunity in the near future.”
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