Arvind Kumar Pai was always seen as a laggard in school. As a shy, lanky teenager it was not unusual for him to be told that he was of little good. He has now morphed into a man who, in the last few years, has thought small to make it big - as a philatelist and a numismatist!

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Arvind did not let the jibes in school deter him. With eight different records to his name now, recognition by the Limca Book of Records (LBR) allows him to metaphorically, throw his weight around among friends.

“I was always told that I could do no good with anything. At least I have proven that I can do something which everyone will sit up and take notice,” Pai said.

Arvind was not someone who was always trying to make records that would get him attention. His father passed away in 2012 and that was a turning point for him. Thus began his fascinating journey from a hobbyist to a record holder. He decided that he would do something that would boost his confidence. “My father used to tell me that we should have a dream and we must follow the dream,” Arvind recalls.

A Budding Numismatist

Arvind had taken to collecting notes and stamps as a kid. When he began having his first collection of one-rupee notes, a modest collection, there was nothing special about it. Occasionally, he would attend a small gathering of philatelists and numismatists. It helped that his father, a man of modest means, was posted at different locations in India. Soon, with a growing collection, he was standing out among his peers.

He was told as a kid that the one-rupee note in India was very different from the rest. It had the signature of the Finance Secretary of India while the currency notes of all other denominations had the signature of the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, India’s Central bank.

As he took to collecting one-rupee notes, Arvind started looking for opportunities to get the ones that had historical value. In 2008, he luckily got his hands on a one-rupee currency note from 1949, signed by the then Finance Secretary KRK Menon. Arvind was attending a philatelic exhibition at the Rani Meyammai Hall at Chennai. He noticed that one of the exhibitors had a one-rupee note displayed there. It turned out that he wanted to sell the note for a mere Rs. 2000. Arvind managed to add it to his collection. That currency note could’ve been about 8–10 times the amount that Arvind paid.

A phone conversation with a well-wisher in 2009 turned out to be another fortuitous event. He was given a phone number of a person who had a one-rupee currency note from 1964, signed by then Finance Secretary S. Bhoothalingam. He was told that the man, in his eighties, was looking to hand it over to someone who could take care of the precious note. Arvind called the elderly person in Chennai and the two struck a deal after a brief conversation. For under Rs. 10,000 the currency note changed hands, and it soon reached his house by post. “I do not remember his name but cannot forget the moment when I received the currency note,” Arvind recalls.

Now Arvind often looks for bundles of good quality currency notes to add to his collection.

While getting good old currency notes can sometimes be a matter or chance, generous friends come to the aid of an always-searching Arvind. Such is his passion that it spreads to all those around him.

On the track to many records

Arvind’s renown was slowly gaining currency, but he needed something more or something completely unexpected to be in the hallowed book of records.

On his mother’s birthday, he decided to send her a letter with 322 stamps on them. He bought stamps of the smallest possible denomination and found place to stick them on the envelope. The number 322 was very special because coincidentally March 22 (3/22) is his birthday. This feat was recognised by LBR in 2014.

In today’s age of digital communication where postage stamps are rarely used, Arvind has collected well over 2.5 lakh stamps.

A year later, it was time for recognition of a different kind. He had managed a collection of Gandhian stamps from 110 countries around the world. For any philatelist, it would have been a dream. Arvind managed it, and earned the attention of LBR again.

Recognitions got him thinking about more records. Soon, he was ready with a collection of ten rupee notes—1004 of them with 1125 included in their serial numbers. The number was special since November 25 (25/11) is his mother’s birthday. The record keepers took note and his name found a mention in 2014 and 2015 in the India Book of Records.(another record book)

LBR once again recognised him as the person with the biggest collection of one rupee notes—11,111 to be precise. He was now often being referred to as the record man of Kerala!

“We don’t always need to do really big things. We can do small things and yet get recognized,” says Arvind, as he gets back to collecting more stamps, currencies, and eventually records.