Al-Avalathi's Life (Al-Avalathi is the last Mallu to go to the Gelf)
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My favourite Match

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Stamp and Coin collections were out of fashion.The 90s were almost over. Rajiv Gandhi was no longer the Prime Minister.Gulf war was about to begin.

A new hobby was coming in place,and that was collecting match box labels. Though my initial reactions were, “No, nothing great…eekss….match box labels…not dignified..”,it caught up really fast. I stayed an ardent collector of matchbox labels for 2-3 years. It faded away. Nowadays, I rarely mention that I used to be Matchbox label collector.Some feeling of “not so good” on the hobby let it hide somewhere deep inside. And no one ever mentioned that he/she used to be a match box label collector….until GWBE did so recently.

Looking back at those times,it was the only hobby I jointly pursued with my brother and there was NO generation gap involved. We Two, and Chavi formed the brands to start off your hobby with.Those were the most popular brands.The value of these brands were not much because of its availability. The ubiquitous Chavi was a wax based match, probably the only one of its kind.Some of the WIMCO brands like Ship and Home Lites were also common. The market also consisted of hazaar counterfeits/imitations trying to piggy back on an established brand.So, there were Ours Two,Key and Homely Lites etc. I remember the brand Kadhak, which in fact had a Kathakali picture on it, instead of Kadhak, for whatever reason.

And the hobby caught up, caught up so much that every single shop near schools ranging from Petty Kada to Stationary shops started selling freshly printed matchbox labels. Yes, they were not the dirty ones taken off from match boxes lying down, but newly printed by some enterprising soul to help grow this hobby and make some quick bucks. Cup was a brand which was available 100 a Rupee(jus’ a bit of exaggeration).

I am not sure, even now if such a brand ever existed in the market.There were so many brands that was added to my collection thanks to these freshly printed matchbox labels.Everybody could buy these labels from shops. The market was getting competitive. One had to have rare labels. It was a question of existence.I started collecting these labels, literally collecting…from streets,roads sides, waste bins.

I was mad, so much that my mom almost disowned me (more than once)when she found me searching for labels among garbage.Another source was friends, relatives who used to come from other cities.I managed some Cheeta Fights from Bangalore. Dubai was a brand which none of my classmates in Trivandrum could manage.You get that brand only in Payyanur. :-) Many other brands were available there and it became a motivation to go to Payyanur. The freshly printed labels that flooded the market had the address which in most cases said either Kovilpatti or Sivakasi.Many a times I thought Kovilpatti never existed and they were all fake.Come to think of brand names, these companies had exhausted almost every single word that was top of mind. From animal and bird names to fruits…from household articles (knife,key etc) to names of gods and goddesses…from names of people and places to numbers….Why not…. If we can have 501 Soaps and Mango Fashion label!

I left the hobby may be because I thought it was not classy, or it seemed cheap to collect these labels. Or may be I was old to continue with a dirty hobby, literally. I burnt all the labels that I had one fine day…. That was the death of a hobby….

(A search on Google reveals that this hobby is called phillumeny and old matchbox labels are sold on ebay. And the limit is that someone by name Shahid Datawala has written a book on Indian Matchbox labels; Matchbook—Indian Matchbox labels.)

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13 comments

1 GWBENo Gravatar { 04.05.08 at 7:56 am }

Too bad you burnt all of them!

Let me see if I can find my old collection, and get a tidy sum for them in ebay.
:D

2 MacadamiaTheNut { 04.09.08 at 7:07 am }

Lol!! I can’t imagine you going through garbage!!!!! Or can I? knowing you… hmmm…

3 RajeevNo Gravatar { 04.09.08 at 1:01 pm }

Man.. My sister also collects matchboxes.. I also tried my hand at all these collecting type hobbies.. but i was too fickle to go beyond a wee.. i wonder if it adds any value to a child’s life..

4 Nikhil NarayananNo Gravatar { 04.11.08 at 8:19 pm }

@GWBE
Share the profits with me, idea was mine na?

@MTN
Don’t try maligning my image in public ;)

@Rajeev
When you are collecting,you dont think this much

5 silverineNo Gravatar { 04.12.08 at 4:05 am }

@rajeev: It does add value to a child’s life. It did to mine. It sets you thinking and exploring and sets you on a voyage of many discoveries…stimulates the imagination…and a whole lot more!

@Nikhil: Nice post..unearthed a lot of my ghosts too :D

6 jjNo Gravatar { 04.12.08 at 7:38 pm }

a fascinating hobby indeed!
lovely post… just made me realize, how ignorant i was about match-boxes, forget about labels :P
but burning all the labels??? that was sad!

7 DipsyNo Gravatar { 04.13.08 at 7:12 am }

Hey you shouldnt have burnt it da…the fun of re-living the hobby with your kids in a coupla years from now…jus think abt it :) …a mesmerizing post…now i’m deported to my childhood…i suddenly want to know where all my chuddy buddy -ies are..what are they doin’…

8 Ram NNo Gravatar { 04.15.08 at 11:53 am }

Check at Tara Books … I know Shirish Rao was making a book on these match book labels …. the book is extremely popular …

9 jinxedNo Gravatar { 04.16.08 at 7:11 pm }

i had a weird hobby too..growin butterflies..:)..maybe one day i shall blog abt it..those wer the days..hehe..i kinda envy my bro when he fishes out coin collection n reminisce..unfortunately butterflies dnt have shelf life..hehe

10 Nikhil NarayananNo Gravatar { 04.25.08 at 4:57 pm }

@jj
thanks for visiting. ya, sad.

@Dipsy
Should I help in the search?

@Ram N
Thanks for visiting
Will check.

@jinxed
Thanks for visiting
Entammo! Wtng for the post

11 250cc scooterNo Gravatar { 06.10.09 at 7:13 pm }

I am amazed with it. It is a good thing for my research. Thanks. ^_^

12 NikhilNo Gravatar { 07.07.09 at 12:37 am }

Thanks for the visit.Good that it is of use to you.
-Nikhil

13 HimamshuNo Gravatar { 03.30.10 at 5:12 pm }

Nice Story Mr. Nikhil, I too faced the same problem like you had – “An Unfashionable & Dirty Hobby”.

When I was a Kid, I used to collect Match Boxes from the roadside pavements. My Parents got to know about this filthy habit & threw my collection when I was at school.

Now I am a Big Man, and have started a New Collection (All New Matches & No Used/Thrown ones).

Please Help me to find The Brands of Globe, Chavi, Sangu, Bell etc etc.

I am on the Hunt for Old Wooden Matchboxes with Wooden Matchsticks.

Please Helllllpppppppp !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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