Collecting coins, autographs, poly bags - a family passion

March 11th, 2008 - 10:48 am ICT by admin  

By Azera Rahman
Gwalior (Madhya Pradesh), March 11 (IANS) The father is one of India’s biggest coin collectors, his son collects the autographs of celebrities, his daughter-in-law collects mobile recharge coupons and his daughter collects polythene bags! Meet the Maheshwari family of Gwalior that loves collecting things, and collecting them big.

H.B. Maheshwari, who works with the Gwalior chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), loves amassing coins and has a collection of over 10,000.

“Collecting coins was a hobby which became something more big and developed into a passion as time passed. I have been collecting coins from across the world for the past 50 years now and have more than 10,000 coins,” Maheshwari told IANS on a heritage walk through Gwalior.

“Some day I hope to establish a coin museum to exhibit what I have been gathering so carefully for over half a century,” he smiled and said.

Coins dating back to the historical period of king Ashoka and Chandragupta Maurya and the Mughal era, besides others, are a part of Maheshwari’s treasure trove.

“But the Gwalior state coin is ironically the only coin which took me the greatest amount of pain to collect. I got it after quoting the highest bid at an American auction. The rest I have collected from friends, relatives, through the internet and foreign auctions,” 60-year-old Maheshwari said.

His collection has earned him nearly 40 awards.

Encouraged by the fame and attention that his father was receiving, Maheshwari’s son Neelkamal too decided to collect something.

“Since I loved getting autographs from celebrities, my father encouraged me to collect them on a big scale and make my own genre of collections. Thus I started collecting and have about of 2,500 autographs,” Neelkamal said.

It was in 2005 that he started and since then he has taken numerous trips across the country and written several letters to celebrities, in all fields, to secure autographs.

“I took several trips to Mumbai and other places in the country, visited cultural festivals et al to collect the autographs of film stars, singers, dancers and scholars. I also wrote letters, nearly 300 of them every day, to get people’s autographs.

Musicians Hari Prasad Chaurasia, the late Bismillah Khan, Bollywood actors Aamir Khan, John Abraham and Shah Rukh Khan, Hollywood actors Jim Carrey, Elizabeth Taylor and Jackie Chan, singer Norah Jones and the legendary Bill Gates are some personalities whose autographs are a part of Neelkamal’s collection.

Neelkamal’s wife Hema has her own collection - that of mobile recharge coupons. “She has more than 2,000 recharge coupons from around the world in her collection,” Neelkamal said with pride.

The only member of the family whose collection is benefiting society is Maheshwari’s daughter, 22-year-old Kamakshi.

“I go from door-to-door and collect polythene bags from people. In return I give them paper or cloth bags that are more eco-friendly. This is a passion I have nurtured for more than four years now and have collected 3,000 polythene bags till date,” she said.

A PhD student of heritage tourism and a visiting faculty at the city’s Jhivaji University, Kamakshi’s interest emanates from the fact that she deeply cares for the heritage monuments in her city.

“Since I am a student of heritage tourism, I know how harmful these polythene bags are. They have a very slow degradation process and when dumped near the architectural monuments harm them.

“Also, they affect animals which sometimes consume them. When I think of all this, it makes me go on in my endeavour. And for that I don’t mind spending any amount of money,” said Kamakshi, dressed in a simple white T-shirt and a pair of denims.

Although she spends nearly Rs.5,000 every month on the cloth bags she distributes, Kamakshi is hardly bothered about the money, especially as it has now initiated a chain reaction amongst youth in her city.

“The Scindia school, for one, has taken up the cause seriously. Each month they send me between 300 and 400 polythene bags that the students get from their homes and I send them a stock of paper bags in return.

“There are other local schools and colleges which have also joined in the movement. Not only that, some of my relatives and friends living abroad have started doing something similar in their colonies,” she said with pride.

No matter where she goes, she always carries 20 paper bags with her. But where do all the collected polythene bags go?

“I fold them neatly and store them away in a cupboard in my home. Each bag has sticker pasted on it which has the name of the person I got it from, the place and a serial number,” she said.

Her unique feat has now been entered in the Limca Book of Records, 2008.

(Azera Rahman can be contacted at

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