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The man with over 5,000 autographs, from Jawahar Lal Nehru, Marilyn Monroe to Amitabh Bachchan – art and culture

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As youngsters, collecting autographs by famous personalities was one of the most popular hobbies and for some, it remains a thing even now. The autograph book is something we would carry to special events in the hope that we just might get to meet that celebrity and get them to sign it for us. But that was a phenomenon associated with us kids from the 80s and 90s.

With the passage of time, the autograph book was relegated to the deep recesses of our drawers, and maybe some of you reading this might try to dust it out today to see whether you still have your collection.

However, there are still a few individuals out there who not only collect autographs but do it in a manner you didn’t think would be possible in this day and age. Delhi based Amarjeet Singh is one of them. He likes to think of himself as the James Bond of philography (the art of collecting autographs) and has more than 5,000 autographs, and there probably isn’t a single Hollywood celebrity who has come to India and not met him. Amarjeet has autographs of people from all walks of life- prime ministers, presidents, Olympians, celebrities- you name it and he has it. Recently he was awarded by the Limca Book of Records for having the maximum number of autographs of Olympic medal winners. But that’s not all, Amarjeet also has the autograph of various famous dead personalities including Albert Einstein, Thomas Alva Edison, Adolf Hitler, Alexander Graham Bell, The Wright brothers, Winston Churchill, Charlie Chaplin and Marilyn Monroe.

With Jackie Chan.

With Jackie Chan.

In fact, that is also the reason he does not want to get married. “I have decided to stay a bachelor throughout my life. If you ask me for a reason I don’t have the answer but maybe because I want to live like a free bird and do whatever I want and keep collecting all this for the future generations without any interruptions and being bound by any ties,” says Amarjeet.

We spoke to Amarjeet about why he does what he does and how he managed to get some of the most difficult autographs.

Which was the first autograph you ever got?

My first autograph was when I was attending a Pankaj Udhas live program in Delhi , where I was unsuccessful in getting his autograph which disappointed me a lot. I decided to get it anyhow and managed to find his address and wrote a letter to him, with a photograph of his. Well, he did oblige me with his autograph after replying to my letter after 45 days. Today also after five years of collecting autographs the first question my mother asks me when I reach home is, ‘Did you receive any letter today?’ Curiosity never dies and never will.

With Will Smith.

With Will Smith.

With Amitabh Bachchan.

With Amitabh Bachchan.

Amarjeet has met Dalai Lama multiple times.

Amarjeet has met Dalai Lama multiple times.

Tell us a little about your collection.

I collect autographs of people from all fields like Bharat Ratnas, Nobel Laureates, sports, Bollywood, Hollywood, painters, etc. Some of my favourites are Jawaharlal Nehru, Dalai Lama, APJ Abdul Kalam, Mother Teresa, Rabindranath Tagore, Lata Mangeshkar, Pele, Rakesh Sharma, Tenzing Norgay, Edmund Hillary, Jackie Chan, Sachin Tendulkar, Amitabh Bachchan, Dhyan Chand and so many more. I never miss anyone who comes to Delhi.

Sometimes it’s very tricky meeting them but at the end of the day I always manage to. I also travel to other cities when international celebrities come to India- which I have done in the case of Jackie Chan (Jaipur) and Maradona (Kolkata).

Obviously it ruins my budget but it also makes me very happy after meeting them and boosts my morale, motivating me to collect more autographs. Sometimes I wish if I could have someone sponsor my trips so that I could collect even more.

We didn’t even know this was possible! With Rajnikanth.

We didn’t even know this was possible! With Rajnikanth.

What is the most challenging part of being an autograph collector?

The most challenging part is finding out where the celebrities are staying, the event location and who all are coming. When we go to take autographs things are not being served on a table- one has to be patient and wait for the right time. Many times the management is rude, but sometimes they are also supportive. I think going with a positive attitude and confidence is what gets one through. I personally feel that until and unless the celebrity does not have any problem in giving autographs, no one can stop me in taking it.

With Maradona.

With Maradona.

Tell us some stories where you had problems while getting an autograph.

I have a saying “Every autograph has a story behind it.” Here are a few of them:

Sachin Tendulkar: The whole world knows about the God of Cricket, and being an autograph collector how can I miss the autograph of this legend?

The IPL season was going on and there was supposed to be a Mumbai Indians match in Delhi. As Sachin was the mentor of the team, he was expected to be there. Since the stadium is not a place where I could have gotten his autograph, I tried at the hotel where the teams were staying, at ITC Maurya.

There were two teams in the same hotel (more than 30 players to collect autographs from ) but I was focused on Sachin. I managed to get his manager’s contact number and was sitting in the lobby while I left him a message on Whatsapp, requesting to make me meet Sachin for just a few seconds. I even called him but no avail. I had been sitting in the lobby for three hours, after which a security guard asked me why I had been sitting in the hotel for no reason. Without uttering a single word I left the hotel as things were not going in a positive way.

However, I was still confident and didn’t lose hope. I Stood outside the ITC Maurya gate for the next few hours, waiting for him to come out. All of a sudden I saw Sachin, wearing aviators, among a group of people. As he was getting into his BMW Z black car I took out a huge photo of him with the world cup and tried to show it to Sachin. He told his driver to stop, took off his glasses and signed the photograph and also a mini bat which I had.

Dilip Kumar: My most recent incident is when I sent 11 unsuccessful letters to Dilip Kumar. In the 12th letter nothing was written- only the single word, ‘PLEASE’ was written 100 times and in the end I had written- ‘Send me your autograph sir, this is my 12th letter to you.’

In a month I received an autographed photo of Dilip Kumar ji with a beautiful letter.

With Mike Tyson.

With Mike Tyson.

With Pele.

With Pele.

Amarjeet’s objective is to conserve and preserve his collection as a heritage for the future generations and he wishes to have a museum in Delhi one day which has his collection.

You never know, maybe the next trend to go viral will be all of us digging out our autograph collections and posting them on social media during the lockdown. Let’s wait and watch.

The author tweets at @shadowwarior and can be reached at kabir.bhandari@htdigital.in and Instagram.com/kabirsinghbhandari

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Written by sortiwa

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