The Hatkes: Of Lost Artefacts and a Collector’s Romance With Time

The Hatkes: Of Lost Artefacts and a Collector’s Romance With Time

Short DoQs

“Somebody has to be able to connect the past to the present for the future generations”, says Aditya Vij with a smile, answering an obvious question that arises after witnessing his massive collection of artefacts across history – is he holding on to the past a little too much?

Aditya, an artefact collector, has items spread across 22 categories over several centuries. From fossilised stones, digging tools, to preserved cat skulls and baby sparrows, from vintage cars to cameras from across the ages, from tin boxes to radios – there is no end to little tokens and markers of history carefully placed in different corners of his house.

Another Demonetisation? A metal board from 1957 when the Indian Coinage (Amendment) Act of 1955 came into force introducing a decimal series for the Indian currency.
Another Demonetisation? A metal board from 1957 when the Indian Coinage (Amendment) Act of 1955 came into force introducing a decimal series for the Indian currency.
(Photo: Athar Rather/The Quint)

“When I used to go out for walks with my father as a child”, Aditya recalls fondly, “he would show me different kinds of matchboxes available in the market. That’s what piqued my interest for the first time.”

‘The History in a Pre-Independence Matchbox’

Aditya’s first collection came at the age of eight when he started putting together matchboxes. To authenticate his story, he pulled out a scrapbook –– it’s delicate cover on the verge of disappearing into oblivion any minute. However, inside the notebook is a well-protected and well-preserved collection of matchboxes, each a relevant marker of time.

A glimpse into Aditya’s world.
A glimpse into Aditya’s world.
(Photo: Athar Rather/The Quint)

While matchboxes of the pre-Independence British era are kept at the start of the scrapbook, there is the gradual but undeniable presence of Bollywood as we move closer to the millennium.

“My mom used to say when I was a kid, “tujhe badha hoke kabaadi hi banna hai, (you will become a scrap dealer when you grow up)” laughs Aditya, pointing out how her words indeed rang true.

‘People Would See Me Wearing an Old Watch and Wonder How Well I am Doing in Life’

Over plates of chole-bhature and kachori, Aditya talks about how the art of collecting is still a nascent phenomenon in India, as many remain unfamiliar with the idea.

My friends would see me wearing an old watch and perhaps wonder that I’ve been left behind in life. It is only now when my collection has received recognition that they realise what I was doing all along.

As he proudly shows us several rows of his typewriters, Aditya draws attention to a mountain of cameras. A heap of precariously placed objects looks back at us, obsolete in an age where several tasks have now all been condensed in the pocket-sized space of a smartphone.

Aditya affirms that nobody has ever managed to take anything with them, and that is precisely why he does not worry about accumulating material wealth. He would rather spend it on putting together a collection that makes him happy, while also leaving enough relics of the past as windows to what humans have left behind.

Cameraperson: Athar Rather
Multimedia Producer: Puneet Bhatia

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