By Taniya Dutta
An Indian professor and a history enthusiast has spent a whopping £1,00,000 on collecting 25,000 artefacts including King George V’s Coronation plate, tin boxes, matchboxes, vintage clocks and a fleet of cars- most of them used by the erstwhile British Raj in the country.
Aditya Vij, 44, teaches marketing to MBA students but has a knack for collecting artefacts that dates back to 200 years and tells the story of the evolution of technology.
Vij has an enviable collection of 10,000 matchboxes-most of which were printed in Sewden by Britain Raj and brought to India, 900 cameras including an 1884 London Stereoscope camera, many Houghtons and Bell & Howells, 2000 tin boxes of iconic cigarette brands like WW1 famed De Rezke and Caverns from 1930-1950s, a Coronation plate of King George V from Delhi Durbar and a map of Delhi under British rule.
He also has 48 radios including Murphy, Telerad, Ecko Roberts used by British to keep abreast with World War 2 news, typewriters including folding ones from 1913, various wall and table clocks, telephones and several ink pots, chocolate boxes, pens and torches used by British officers during their rule in India.
The father of two daughters has kept all his prized possession at his sprawling three-bedroom, two storey house in New Delhi.
He has classified the items in 23 categories that he has collected in just over five years from all across the country with the help of a chain of trusted networks.
Aditya believes his collection is an eyeopener for the smartphone, social media savvy generation to understand the evolution of technology.
Aditya says: “I have always been a lover of history. There is always two sides of history-one written or spoken and the other unspoken. I always tend to find out the unspoken history.
“Everything I have in my house tells a story of a different era when technology was still evolving. Whether it is matchboxes or typewriters or cameras.
“We take things for granted these days but these items which might not be of any value to others are actually a rich history.
“These items are from a time when India had no printing press to print matchboxes or the radio that was the only source of medium for information for the families whose sons were fighting in World War for British army.
“The pens or tin boxes for echolocates or handkerchiefs depict the richness of the British. Everything was taken good care of. The cigarettes would come in tin boxes and so were the matchboxes to avoid any damage.
“We do not see anything like this anymore. Whether it was telephones, typewriters or cameras, they explain howtedour the process was to even make a call or print a black and white picture.”
Aditya’s first collection was 2000 matchboxes that he collected after his father’s encouragement when he was seven. However, the passion for collecting artefacts was reinvigorated 30 years later when his daughter found the collection in cupboard.
“My daughter found the matchbox collection lying in cupboard. It was a very emotional moment for me as I had collected these with my father. He always believed that matchbox were special.
“India did not have ink or printing press. These matchboxes were a gift from British rulers to the country. These had different prints and designs and were special for every household because whether it was cooking food or safety, a matchbox was an asset.”
While anyone can drop by at Aditya’s house to get a glimpse of the collectibles, he wishes to start a museum for keeping all the 25,000 items in an organised manner so they last another century or longer for the posterity.
He said: “I have collected these items completely out of passion but I wish them that these can be stored in good condition for years to come.
“People do not value these items. They throw it away or burn in the bonfire in winters but I understand the value.
“Every item that I have has come from a person’s house whether Indian or British and has a journey of its own. I want these precious collectibles to be organised in a proper museum so people can come and watch, students of history, art and photography can study the products and their evolution.”