Philatelic activities began in the Ashram because Mother had an interest in
stamps since her childhood. Pavitra-da (Monsieur St. Hilaire) was the first
collector in the ashram. In France he had many albums, at least eight or ten.
Mother’s approval he got his stamp albums from France and started the stamp
collection work. This was in the late 1920s.
This work was being done in Pavitra-da's own room in the main Ashram
building, upstairs where Mother used to come daily. At times she would see the
collection which was kept in Pavitra-da's bed room, the room through which Mother
used to pass while going to give Balcony Darshan. There he had a small almirah
where everything was stacked.
Noren Singh joined the Ashram in 1939 and started working with Pavitra-da ,
assisting him mainly in the stamp work. Later Noren Singh had been selected for
the stamp collection work by the Mother.
The philatelic department took shape in the present room when Noren Singh
was in charge. In the beginning, for a long time, only Suprabha used to help
him. Sri Aurobindo lived in this room for four years from 1922 to February 1927,
till His retirement. It was in this room that the descent of Over mind took
place. After that Anilbaran was given this room. Later when he left for Calcutta
(Kolkata), in the mid 1960s, the Mother handed over the keys of this vacant room
to Noren Singh in order to house the stamp collection. This shows how much she
cared about it. By that time the collection had grown vastly and there was not
enough space for it in Pavitra-da's room.
This small collection of stamps grew fast due to the Mother's encouragement.
Later, when Mother went up to live in her second-floor rooms. She used to come
downstairs with Pranab. At that time whenever Noren Singh received any stamp he
would show it to Her. She would stand and see them and she definitely took great
interest in the work. Sri Aurobindo also knew about this work.
The stamp collection grew because Noren Singh would exchange stamps with
other collectors. The stamps the devotees sent to the Mother were given to Noren
Singh by the Mother herself. Even when She was not seeing many people, Sumitra
used to go up to Her because she was secretary to Pavitra-da and so she took
letters to the Mother. Seeing covers with stamps. Mother would say, 'You go and
give these covers personally to your brother". Earlier all the letters which
were coming were kept inside the drawer of Pavitra-da's office and when it was
full Noren Singh would sort them out for stamps.
The Mother's stamp collection, or the Department of Philately as it is now
known, has stamps from many countries of the world. There is a good collection
of post-independent India (British India not much), French India and some
countries of Western Europe, such as France, Germany, Holland and Switzerland.
There is also a good representation of modern stamps of Canada, U.S.A. Brazil
and other countries. Coins and bank notes too are collected. The Mother was
equally interested in them.
The Telecarte collection, started only a few years back, say in the year
2000, is growing fast; an ardent collector in France helps.
Previously there were no fixed timings as Noren Singh would work whenever he
had time. At present, however, the timings are from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 1.30
p.m. to 4 p.m. Regular handling for giving light and air to the stamps is very
important. During the rainy season one cannot bring out the stamps due to high
humidity but there are other work, such as catching up with correspondence and
reading the stamp journals. This also is important. One also works with coins at