A telegram could evoke a range of emotions in households,mostly surprise and fear,as soon as people heard Taar aaya hai aapke liye (There is a telegram for you).
Until about the early 1990s,telegrams were the usual mode of sending important news that needed to reach the intended person urgently mostly the passing away of a near and dear one. But they also brought happy tidings,like a new arrival in the family or someone getting a job.
With more per capita availability of landline phones,and the advent of cellphones making the telegram gradually redundant,its death does not come as a surprise. Mostly banks and insurance companies continue using the telegram,usually to remind people about premium payments.
At the Pune division of the Central Telegraph Office (CTO),behind the General Post Office at Sadhu Vaswani Chowk,the telegram counter is almost deserted. Pune,one of the cities that send a large number of telegrams every month,will see the death of the taar mid-July.
Mahendra Kumar Jain,Chief Operating Officer,BSNL,says,Earlier,we used to send thousands of telegrams per day through the 15 offices in the city. As time passed,the offices were shut one by one and only one office at the CTO remains, he says.
The telegram was introduced in India in 1850. The first experimental electric telegraph line was started between (the then) Calcutta city and its port on the outskirts,Diamond Harbour. In 1851,telegram was opened for use of the British East India
In Pune,the Department of Post and Telegraph occupied a small corner of the Public Works Department. The telex and telegraph machines are redundant and telegrams are sent through a computerised process these days. They are typed on a software and uploaded to the CTO nearest to the receiver post office where they are sorted for delivery. Pune remains one of the top centres for telegrams till date, says Jain.
In the months gone by,we sent about 3,000 to 3,500 telegrams every month, he says.
So what happens to staff at the telegraph department?
Jain said,All but one of our offices were shut down about 15 years ago. We only have five people working in the department. They shall be distributed among other departments.
Apart from occasional wishes and serious messages,Jain says insurance companies and banks make most use of the service these days. Insurance companies and banks send telegrams to defaulting clients or members as payment reminders, says Jain.