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It is not everydaythat one lands a high-flying job on the basis of one’s hobby. But for Mumbai-based Vijay Deshpande,this is just what happened.

From actors to former prime ministers,to industrialists,Vijay Deshpande’s autograph book boasts of 2100 prized signatures

It is not everydaythat one lands a high-flying job (literally) on the basis of one’s hobby. But for Mumbai-based Vijay Deshpande,this is just what happened. The proud owner of an unmatchable collection of over 2100 autographs smiles,“When I showed my collection to the interview panel at Air India,they were mighty impressed by it. I was immediately recruited on the basis of it!”

Deshpande began his unique collection way back in 1955 and as he displayed his prized possessions at the Fergusson College on Thursday,onecouldn’t miss the pride and passion in his eyes. “I started my collection by obtaining autographs of MS Patil,Narendra Tamhane and YB Patwa. After that,there was no looking back for me. I have managed to add to my treasure autographs of noted personalities like Atal Bihari Vajpayee,Leander Paes,Sania Mirza,Madhuri Dixit,Nargis and Sunil Dutt,just to name a few,” says he.

Persuasion and passion have been the two key elements instrumental in the collection of celebrity squiggles and elaborate signatures.“Celebrities have refused to give me their autograph many a times,but that has not deterred me. Some have even labeled it as a childish pursuit. But I never lose hope when turned down or mocked at. That is how I have managed to assemble such a large collection,” he explains.

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His unrelenting spirit has almost always won. He recalls with joy,“I once wrote a letter to Dr P V Kane requesting him for his autograph. His reply letter stated that he didn’t believe in giving autographs as he views it as a western concept. But he signed his name at the end of the letter which served my purpose!”

There have been times when he has longed for an autograph buthasn’t received one. “Like in the case of astronaut Yuri Gagarin.I really wanted his autograph and was lucky enough to see him at a traffic signal. I even handed my autograph book over to him,but the traffic cop hit me on my arm and I dropped the book. The traffic lights turned green and I saw Gagarin moving away…” he says ,adding,“The opportunity to get his autograph was lost forever.”

Friends,family members and even strangers have been awestruck by his collection and pursuit of signatures. Whenever possible,they have tried to contribute to the growing number. “Once a lady walked in with her collection of 17 precious autographs and she simply donated that to me,” he smiles.

(The collection will be on display till 8 pm today)

Tanushree Kulkarni