It’s a Match!
You know you can successfully be called a phillumenist when everyone around starts questioning if you’re a chain-smoker.
It all started when I had to pick any daily object for a communication class in college and study it inside out. I picked out something that was easily found at all times and anywhere, a matchbox. After this, I developed an insatiable urge to collect matchboxes from the local tapri, kirana store and even from the streets. Luckily, I come from a family who loves road trips, which helps me to keep my collection regionally diversified.
Starting out to make our lives easier, matchboxes became much more than that by transcending boundaries of time, nations and emotions. I feel in this modern world where lighters are the ‘new cool’, matchboxes are serving as a metaphor to light up the cultures and traditions of different demographics. The art on their covers has showed me how our priorities and mindset has changed over time as a nation. From Goddess Saraswati in white saree we have moved on to Kareena Kapoor in western dresses, from boats on ghats we have moved on to Maruti Omni and from plant Tulsi we have moved on to the number 420.
While countries like the US are more focused on the branding aspect of restaurants, pubs and hotels where they pay attention to the typography and company logos, Indian matchsticks are charged with emotions and influenced by the local production areas and more inclined towards depicting familiar objects and figures such as Indian Monuments, Indian deities, regional flora and fauna and also popular celebrities using a vibrant color palette. This makes it more attractive to my creative eye and tickles me to dig into the reasons behind this disparate style. A perpetual thought that rings in my mind whenever I come across a new box is of the innominate artists who make these beautiful paper ephemeras. Observing with time, we can see that the old ones have handmade illustrations but with evolution in technology and new techniques coming up digitized art is being printed on the covers making them quirkier.
Moving further on this path of phillumeny, I’ve match-ed ( pun intended ) with people who are just as interested as me to interpret the art these matchboxes are trying to depict and participate in building my collection. Each matchbox here is trying to show us a story, even the next one you’re going to pick up at the ‘paanwalla’, so let’s give a second of our thought to this dwindling creativity.