SAD. Stop. That’s how one would word a telegram to describe what people felt as they bade adieu to the 163-year-old telegram service on Sunday at 9 pm. But even as the government brought the curtains down on the age-old system, the Central Telegraph Office (CTO) was busy as ever on Monday morning, saying goodbye and tying up all the loose ends.
R K Balmaiki, who began working as a telegram messenger in 1977, said that the last few days at work were hectic and there was no time even for a breather. One of the oldest employees at CTO, the 59-year-old, now sitting at the office and sorting telegrams, said that the job gave him immense satisfaction and it would forever be etched in his mind. “I still have 10 months of service but there is no joy such as the one I received while working here,” he said.
And while people around the city became nostalgic about the telegram, the employees continued to toil hard. GS Gaur, the sub-divisional engineer, telegraph section, Mumbai CTO, said that even though it was his birthday, he had made time to celebrate. “There were so many telegrams that had been booked and we have to ensure that all of them are delivered. However, my staff has made this day special for me by buying me some sweets.”
Thousands rushed on Sunday to book their final telegrams and bid farewell to the service. But for three teenagers the chance to do so was forever lost after they arrived at the telegram centres a tad too late on Monday. Vivian Coelho said, “We had initially gone to Marine Lines to book a telegram but we were turned down after being told that bookings had been stopped on Sunday night. We tried our luck at the CTO but looks like we won’t be able to send a telegram.” Asked why they wished to send one now, Melvyn Mukherjee said, “You realise the importance of something only when it is to end.”
But it wasn’t just gloomy nostalgia that enveloped the CTO office. Several BSNL employees were even angry at the closure. SS Ubhe, district secretary of BSNL Employees Union said, “Even though we have entered an era of high-tech communication services, the telegram is still essential for the common man to convey grievances to higher officials, like the collector. Moreover, it is accepted in the court of law as documentary proof.”
The number of telegram bookings the Mumbai CTO received on July 14, the last day of service
Number of telegram bookings at the Santacruz centre, making it the highest number of telegrams sent from a single centre
The number of phonograms sent on Sunday alone
Rs 3.4 lakh
Total amount of revenue collected from telegrams on Sunday
Number of telegram messengers spread across the city
Number of telegram employees in the city
Number of telegrams sent on Sunday by a life insurance company, making it the highest from a single client