Collection was never a hobby for Uncle Gopu. Neither did it ever count in his list of involvements. Except, of course, for money. But when money does not get collected in huge amounts… the situation converts to serious trauma and ultimately meets with an elephantine crisis.
One day, Uncle Gopu was having his usual morning chit-chat with a friend… a friend who can be simplified as a crisis-holder.
‘Gopu!’, the crisis-holder exclaimed, ‘See, almost every rich and aristocratic person has a habit of collection. I do suppose that this is what distinct some rich people from the rest. I’ve heard that George the Fifth also had this hobby.’
Uncle Gopu looked at him with bewildered eyes- ‘Even George the Fifth?’
‘Definitely! Why? Wasn’t he rich? Not only rich, he could even buy several groups and clusters of land lords!’
‘Oh! I see! So he had the hobby of collecting land lords!’, Uncle Gopu cried with more surprise.
‘No no Gopu. What would he do with land lords? Where would he keep them? It is not like keeping tigers, lions and elephants in the zoo. He collected stamps…’
‘Ishtamp? Those which are found in the post office? Or those on wills and court orders?’
‘No no. Not on court orders or wills. Stamps of various states and countries, those which are hundred years old, or more, or less- stamps of different times, shapes, colours.’
‘Hmmm. Nice’, Uncle Gopu exclaimed with excitement, ‘What if I start this collection?’
‘But wait! An old ticket costs quite a lot. It can range from two or five rupees to five -ten- twenty- thousand- two lakhs- four lakhs…’
‘Ah! Is it? So be it! I’ll have to start this right now. I am ready to bear all costs. And how does the cost matter if I can be remembered as the George of India!?’
‘Oh! Yes Gopu. Or how else can you prove that you are no less than George the Fifth?’ Uncle Gopu returned home with an unusual air of an electrifying intensity of enthusiasm.
Within few days the news had spread like wild fire- Uncle Gopu and his stamp collection. One morning, when he had almost filled fifty albums, Uncle Gopu woke up to see around five hundred young boys waiting in front of his house. They had come to meet him- some wished to sell stamps and others, to buy a few. Everybody held an album under their arms. Uncle Gopu, at once, summoned his friend, the crisis-holder.
‘What a dilemma!’, Uncle Gopu cried, ‘they are all collecting ishtamps! And not only that, collecting for days and months and years- much before me- what a dilemma!’
‘So… so what, Gopu? Why shouldn’t they?’, the crisis-holder asked in fear.
‘A hobby which almost everyone has involved themselves in, even young boys half my age…’, Uncle Gopu shouted in anger, ‘you’ve made me do such a job, eh? Why? Are they all so rich?’
‘Not at all, Uncle’, I tried to add fuel to the fire, ‘they are just few kids and toddlers!’
Uncle Gopu shed tears in disappointment, ‘I’ve made a huge loss of ten-ten thousand rupees! All because of you!’
What would the crisis-holder reply? By then the crisis-holder had become an element of decry. He was stoic and expressionless like a statue of stone. Uncle Gopu, from the heights of irritation and despair, began to distribute the stamps among the boys.
Though Uncle Gopu had left stamps, the involvement did not leave him. Involvement is quite like insomnia… once it gets on, it is hard to recover. He exclaimed, ‘No ishtamp this time. I’ll have to collect something which no one does and no one can. If there is anything such, please tell.’
The crisis-holder began to ponder. New crisis-holders got accumulated to decide the new hobby.
There were various suggestions- butterflies, feathers, colourful fish, shells of turtles, etc.- old papers, swords and weapons of historic worriors, Chinese utensils, bells of cows, stones of different colours, toys of other states-
Uncle Gopu rejected every idea. Everyone collects these- someone or the other definitely does.
They came up with jewelries and riches of ages, coins of silver, gold and copper, etc.- fountain pen, match box, etc. Nothing seemed to convince Uncle Gopu. Someone or the other is definitely collecting these- for years they mustn’t have left these for me!
Some tried desperately- kerosene lamps, mirrors, scissors- in short, almost everything around had filled the rejection list.
Various types of food and snacks? Chap, cutlet, sweets, biscuits, toffees, chocolates, lollypops? Means edibles and non-edibles of every possible types and colours- I suggested in the end. Yet, Uncle Gopu was hard to be pleased.
Ultimately, losing patience, an ultimate crisis-holder slipped his tongue- ‘Then what else can be done? Go and collected white elephants!’
Uncle Gopu’s pair of wide eyes twinkled. He could not enlist this crisis-holder as an element of decry.
‘White elephant! White elephant!’, Uncle Gopu cried out repeatedly, ‘Yes! I’ve heard about it. In Burma or Nepal or, perhaps, Malaysia they worship white elephants. Yes! If I have to collect then it’ll be this! No matter how much far reaching and widely influential a rich man can be… even the various zoo and wildlife sanctuaries of foreign countries… I doubt if they have one of these. Yes, I need white elephants!’
Uncle Gopu had announced his new hobby. He wanted a white elephant at any cost- be it from Nepal or Bhopal, Hatinagar or Hastina, Karachi or Ranchi- he wanted a white elephant at any cost. He simply wanted. At any cost. And that too, not one or two, at least a dozen!
… to be continued