A mission drives a unique collection

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‘It’s the newspaper number 3191,’ Shashanka said gleefully as I handed over to him the latest issue of my tabloid travel magazine- Awara Musafir. He had requested me to bring a copy for him before I left Delhi for Bhubaneswar. This is one of the ways he uses to enlarge his collection, by asking friends and well-wishers to get a copy of a newspaper for him from wherever in the world they go.

Shashanka Sekhar Dash with his collection

A journalist, writer and social worker Shashanka Sekhar Dash is fondly known as ‘Paper Boy’ for his this very unusual hobby. What started just as a passing thought in 2001 slowly developed into a passionate hobby and now he has taken this as a journalist mission. At that time Shashanka was working with a small newspaper. He noticed that newspaper was printed in Delhi but there was no copy available in the Odisha market. He though it was better to preserve a copy. Than it crossed his mind that there might be more such newspapers whose copies are not available in the market, he started collecting them as well. Slowly he kept widening his collection.

Hence in last 17 years till now, he collected more than three thousand newspapers and tabloids representing 59 languages from 69 countries in the world. This accumulation has already earned him a place in Limca Book of Records and India book of records in 2012 and now he is in process of finding  place in Guinness Book of World Records, which he is quite sure of.

Shashanka belongs to Arangabad village in Bari block of Jajpur district in Odisha. Now he is working as COO of the Mangalajodi Ecotourism Trust which is a community livelihood project at Mangalajodi Wetlands in Khurda district of Odisha. Shashanka also purchases the newspapers whenever he finds one which he does not have in his collection. He also writes directly to newspaper offices for a souvenir copy.

Shashanka Sekhar Dash with his collection

Obviously housing such a huge and ever increasing collection and preserving it is no mean task. It requires space also. So what Shashanka does is that he puts a sticky note on every newspaper with a brief sketch. He then carefully wraps them in a poly bag and then stores them carefully in shelfs and almirahs. They will then be brought out whenever he has to show them for an inspection or display them for an exhibition, which he already has had a few. Newspaper collection is not a usual hobby, but Shashanka has come across some other couple of persons with this passion, although there collection is very small still in comparison to Shashanka’s.

With such a long journey already completed, Shashanka doesn’t want to go it as a waste. He now plans to convert a portion of his family home in his village as the museum and research centre, where budding journalists and students can come and have a glimpse of newspaper journey around the world. May be in couple of years from now, he will fulfil this dream. With lot of digitisation going on, life of newspapers is getting smaller. With many newspapers closing their editions, this collection will have an eternal value. Shashanka already has many newspapers in his collection which have closed down. Now they are of enormous value.

Shashanka has also written six books in Odia which include poems, short stories and also a book on journalistic essays. In the year 1999 he also published Odisha’s first children’s newspaper.

Shashanka lives with this passion. In past week since we met, he has received six newspapers from New Zealand through a friend who just returned from the country and three other in Chinese via another source. His count now stands 3203.

Do you know of any such other collection! Please share in comments section below.

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