Pursuit of Happiness

Fillpot Tales

From Winston Churchill to Barack Obama, Mogae Media's Sandeep Goyal boasts of an enviable toby jug collection 

A flurry of familiar faces look intently from the large shelves. They look like the people we have seen on television or read about in history books. In fact, they are toby jugs often called 'Fillpot' as well. Sandeep Goyal has at least 350 of them arranged carefully in his office in central Mumbai and another 50 at home a few blocks away. The collection is a labour of love gathered over a period of several years. 

The chairman of Mogae Media, is well travelled and speaks of the little places tucked away in many countries he has visited. He is a fine raconteur and his stories make for some great listening — the enviable collection of toby jugs is one of them.

In the early 1990s, Goyal was a Rotary scholar and spent time in the UK. As part of the course requirement, he had to be a house guest. This was at the home of the Taylors in Ilkeston, a town close to Derby and Nottingham, with a population of no more than 40,000. It was here that he got very close to the family, whom he continued to be in touch even after his stay. Sometime in 1999, while visiting Ilkeston, he struck up a routine conversation with Trevor, the head of the household. “Very casually, I commented on his collection of toby jugs saying they looked interesting,” recalls Goyal.

That chat ended there and a few years later, Trevor passed away. In his will, he bequeathed his collection of 51 jugs to Goyal. “I was taken aback by the gesture. It seemed like a divine signal,” says the 55-year-old. Following up on that, every time he is in the UK, he makes it a point to pick up a few jugs. It’s not as if they are easily available. “You have to look for them in pawnshops in the upcountry region. It is far more expensive in London, if one is lucky enough to get them,” he explains.

Typically, he picks up three to four pieces each time he is visiting that part of the world. They don’t come cheap and Goyal says, on an average, each jug costs £100-200. “The collection is so large now, I do make the mistake of buying a jug I already have,” he admits sheepishly. He likes the idea of getting you to guess some of the faces and playfully taunts when you are struggling. There is no Indian in that large collection, simply because they don’t make them. Goyal’s personal favourites are Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, one of Winston Churchill with his bulldog and Barack Obama. “I still enjoy buying them after all this time. The joy of spotting a jug that I don’t have, is unexplainable,” he says with a wide smile. Meanwhile, the search for that new face continues in right earnest.