Curtains came down on Sunday on the 160-year-old telegram service even as hundreds thronged the Central Telegraph Offices to send last-minute messages to family and friends and be a part of history.
In Delhi,the CTO booked 3,402 telegrams by Saturday,with 1,326 telegrams booked on Friday itself. Around 500 bookings were made till Sunday afternoon.
Amit Garg,a resident of Mumbai,wrote his last telegram to President Pranab Mukherjee on Sunday,requesting His Excellency for a meeting with his wife and two children,but only on Saturday or Sunday,as he wouldnt like his children to miss school. Another threatened the President with a fast unto death if the service was not recalled,yet another requested Rahul Gandhi to save the country as well as the service. Families gathered outside the CTOs to have their photographs clicked.
Chief Telegraph Master at Centre Telegraph Office,New Delhi,R D Ram said,From July 8,we have seen general public turning up. Till Saturday,3,402 telegrams were booked with 1,326 bookings done on Friday. Till afternoon we have had around 400 bookings.
Delhi had four centres for booking telegrams,including the CTO at Janpath and Departmental Telegraph offices at Kashmiri Gate,Janakpuri and Delhi Cantonment. Sub Divisional Engineer (Operations) at CTO Kiran Pal recalled that there were around 50 telegram centres in Delhi till 2005. Services at Janakpuri office were closed yesterday. On Saturday,165 telegrams were booked at Kashmiri Gate office, Pal said.
The nostalgic sound of the machine gave way to a pall of gloom that descended on the CTOs,where the staff expressed displeasure at its discontinuance. People in interior villages need an inexpensive messaging service as private telephone companies dont want to go to there. Dedicated services are run for banks and the Army. Jawans apply for leaves through telegrams. The courts accept telegrams as certified proofs, said M S Arya,a veteran at the CTO.
At the Mumbai CTO office,located at Fountain,hundreds of first-time senders went berserk with excitement. For the past 10 years,my business partner has been sending me greeting messages on festivals and on my birthday. His sense of timing is so perfect that on the new year day,he would arrange for the telegram to arrive the moment I opened my office, said first-timer Hiren Kothari,who sent a long-overdue reply to his partner in Andhra Pradesh.
The staff,however,were not prepared for the wave of people,anxious not to miss the 8 pm deadline for sending their final communication. Every telegram will be sent, assured Gaurishankar Gaud,sub-divisional engineer,BSNL.
All through Sunday,the halls,which once rang with the unceasing click of the telegraph machine,reverberated with the din of eager customers.
I will miss the noise. Before the computers came in,the kada-katta sound of the machine filled the office, said Subhash Rane,a third-generation employee at the CTO. My grandfather and father both worked here; it was natural for me to join them. There were once boxes for every village in Maharashtra, he said.
For Shradha Tulsankar,an employee who has served for 32 years,the final day brought in mixed emotions. The students of Balmohan Vidyamandir in Dadar had booked thousands of telegrams,telling their receivers that they were sending the last one. The realisation that it was the last day felt heavy. I also felt a little nervous. We will now move to a more advanced means of communication, said Tulsankar,who typed messages into a specially designed software and sent them to their destination.
Mahendar Tarwalla,a 68-year-old agent who has been sending telegrams on behalf of traders for a commission for the last 50 years,was busy on the final day of his job. The last that he sent was a message from a trader to a grains supplier in Ahmedabad. It read: Five kilos of the toor dal you sent (is) of very poor quality. An emotional Tarwalla said: I do not know what work I will find now.