Jigar Desai has built a collection of bus and train tickets to sell them at a premium in future! He also hopes to make it to the Limca Book of Records, reports Rishi Majumder
Photographer: Rana Chakraborty
“I had 999850. I asked for 999999 and 1000000. He said, ‘Beech ka number khatam hoga kal dopahar baarah baje tak.’ So I cancelled my noon appointments to arrive at the same stop to ask, ‘Rakha?’ He replied, ‘Woh number aa gaya tha. Isliye Rs 6 ke jagah mein Rs 5 waala ticket bech rahaa tha… rakha… ‘”
Don’t be flummoxed by what may seem a peculiar line of conversation punctuated by numbers. For when you make acquaintance with Jigar Desai, you understand that you have met a rather singular, if somewhat uncanny, individual. To begin with, the 29-year- old sewerage equipment manufacturer wears his trousers pulled up to his navel and walks rapidly, almost timing each step. Aboard the local train, as we wonder which our next station is, he reassures: “In two minutes – Matunga.” In two minutes, precisely, it’s Matunga. “My brain’s used to multi-tasking,” he jokes, staring us in the eye… while simultaneously punching in and sending an SMS: “Relax. We’ll get off at Ghatkopar.”
But that’s not all that’s uncanny about Desai. 999850, 999999 and 1000000 are bus ticket numbers. Around three years ago, Desai came across old bus and train tickets at an exhibition: “Rs 2 tickets were worth Rs 100! That got me started on the collection. Travelling daily for work, I stored my tickets, sorting out fancy numbers.” Around three months ago, while preparing a collection for the Limca Book Of Records, Desai sold a four rupee ticket bearing “the holy number 786 for Rs 1000”.
“I don’t collect the usual collector’s stuff,” he explains. “Creativity is in finding worth in what’s ‘worthless’.” Like sewerage equipment, perhaps. In his early days, businessman Dhirubhai Ambani supposedly exported soil to an Arab, hoping to grow roses in the desert. Today, while most aspiring entrepreneurs bet on shares or horses, Desai invests in used transport tickets.
His Limca Book… submission will be a set of 1000 Rs 4 bus tickets, the numbers series going from 000 to 999. He has a chart marking the 80 series numbers left. Other prized conquests are a default train ticket with the hour of the day being printed as 25 instead of 24, and four train tickets bearing the same details. Besides these “fancy numbers”, there are bus tickets with a d v e r t i s e m e n t s : “Like ads for each of the 43 Priya Gold biscuit flavours!” Advertisements on bus tickets ceased from last year, he claims, thus enhancing their value. He then flashes a 1943 train pass: “This wasn’t as valuable when issued.” Instead of buying expensive tickets from the past, he saves present tickets for the future.
That isn’t the only uncanny thing about Desai either. A collector since age 17, he has assorted other “uncommonly common things”. Like pre-paid cell phone cards… or match boxes, “which I donated to someone because I heard of a vast collection with 9000 varieties.” Desai collects with a purpose: “My BEST ticket collection is unique – it enables me to make a record.” He started collecting pre-release film advertisements in newspapers since last year: “I’ll concentrate on that in a month.”
Desai plans his collections carefully, and would not have anything go amiss: “When I am pressured by workload, I ask a friend or relative to lookout for certain items during that period.” He brings out yet another collection – autographs: “TV stars, Tushar Gandhi, Shyam Benegal…” He sent Ratan Tata’s office a Jamshedji Tata stamp cover with a request for an autograph: “When I received it, signed, I sent them an old Tata diary.” Having received a signed copy, he shows us other Tata diaries waiting to be dispatched to Bombay House. “I have a Times Of India stamp cover too, I want the TOI ‘main boss’ to sign it,” he adds. We reserve comment.
As we get off the train, he discusses his collections’ future: “Post marriage, I’ll have to narrow down to two or three kinds. But I’m planning exhibitions soon.” Breaking off to speak to a railway official, he grins, and scurries towards the ticket counter. “I had seen ticket number 888864 in the morning. So I asked them to keep this,” he flaunts a ticket numbered 888888. But he preaches caution: “Suspicious railway officers at certain stations are asking their subordinates ‘Ye chokra baar baar ajeeb number waala ticket kyon maangta hai?'” They too, believe, there’s something uncanny about Desai.
This article first appeared in Mumbai Mirror, Times Of India: http://alturl.com/gp9t