Monday, October 02, 2006

City’s ‘butterfly man’ has stamped his mark on the world

Anupam Bhagria

Ludhiana, September 15: S K Sondhi can rightly be called the “butterfly man”. As you enter his house, you get the impression that you are entering a butterfly museum. From wind chimes to decorative objects – every item bears the impression of butterflies.

A philatelist of international fame, Dr Sondhi retired as Dean of College of Agricultural Engineering from Punjab Agricultural University on August 31. But he insists that he has retired from his profession “but not from my hobby of philately. I will spend more time to pursue my hobby.’’

Dr Sondhi has been collecting his stamps from the tender of 10 after he received a gift of postage stamps and album from his cousin. ‘‘There were three D stamps of Bhutan which hooked me to this hobby. And I started collecting stamps on theme ‘Butterfly’ when I was in Class 10.”

Why butterfly? No specific reason, he says. But today he has more than 5,000 stamps on butterflies, which he has been displaying at national and international exhibitions.

He has won three national and one international award for this too. ‘‘In June that my exhibit on ‘Blood donation’ got Big Silver medal in international exhibition at Denmark. I have already won one international award and one national award for this too,’’ he says. A lot of hard work is behind this.

“I read dozens of books on butterflies including dictionaries and encyclopedia. I have 90 per cent collection of stamps on butterflies”.

His stamps on butterflies tells the whole story: species, body parts, habitats, life cycle, migration, predators, survival strategies, folklores, costume… everything.

Stamps are just one manifestation of Dr Sondhi’s love for butterflies. He has coins of West Indies having butterfly impressions. There are dozens of phone cards having butterflies photos, wall hangings of dead butterflies, and the photographs of every butterfly in the ‘Butterfly Zoo’ at Niagra Falls in Canada.

This butterfly lover is the founder president of Ludhiana Philately Club and worked as president from 1973 to 1981. He also wrote a book and edits ‘The North Post’ - the magazine of Ludhiana Philately Club, which won a medal in literature class at National Philatelic Exhibition in 1993 in Kolkata. He is also a member of the governing council, Philatelic Congress of India for over 10 years.

His wife Sushma, a school teacher, maintains that “Philately is the first wife of Dr Sondhi. I am the second. But she said she has always inspired his hobby.”

About future plans, Sondhi says: ‘‘Butterflies to meri hain hi’. But I have also planned to collect stamps on ‘AIDS Awareness’ and ‘Road Safety.’’

He is also willing to organise workshops and seminars in schools, and “I have plans to establish a philately library at the Head Post office.”



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