Telegram Stop

telegramI sent my first and last telegram ever today. Ave atque vale!

BSNL has put an end to it’s telegraph services from the 15th of July, 2013 owing to it’s humungous losses. 163 years ago, the East India Company started the Telegraph Services. Since then until 3-4 decades ago, all major or urgent news was sent via telegrams. Very good or very bad news that needed to be delivered soon relied on this service.

When a telegram arrived, the entire household would gather around (so I’ve been told.) News about the death of a dear one, early arrival back home, congratulations on a new addition to the family, matriculate results or diwali greeting, just about anything was conveyed using morse code. The older generation fondly remembers the telegraph, the nail biting suspense, frequent travels to the telegraph office, sentences ending with STOP and putting one’s thought’s into the minimum number of words as each word had to be paid for! And, my great grandfather had worked at the Telegraph office.

With all this knowledge, I made my pilgrimage to the Central Telegraph Office, Delhi. I too planned to send myself a telegram- a little piece of history! Before I set out, I wondered what I should write to myself. Something profound, something marking an end of a bygone era, something making as much sense 50 years hence as it would now. And what better language than Latin- itself facing death! I finally came up with:


Translation: Everything happens for a reason. Hail and Farewell

Central Telegraph Office

The light drizzle added to the nostalgia of the evening. This telegraph office is aptly nestled in Eastern Court, Janpath- a grand white colonial building reminiscent of the British Raj. The young came with eyes wide open seeing the inside of a telegraph office for the first time, and the old filled with a sense of nostalgia and possibly moist eyes, all hoping to send a memorial telegram before the service rests in peace.The little office has not seen so many visitors for a very very very long time.

1407201346714072013474Telegraph standard phrases14072013479

I stood in line for two and a half sweaty hours squeezed between a crowd eager to send their last telegrams. I got a chance to see the inside of the office. The use of Morse code stopped in 1983. There are no radios in sight as nowadays, they use computers. The workers there are few and elderly. I peered into forms the others had filled: Last telegram. Keep safe. OR  Dear .., this is the last telegram on the last day, love… OR God bless you, may you stay happy, my last wishes sent by telegram, etc.

The people around me were chatting about the good old days, where one managed to stay in touch without telephones. One of them opened an old, little notepad containing details of all the telegrams he’s sent from a message for having passed all his exams to Bitto’s wedding invitations! People exchanged stories about fateful news they had received. Journalists were busy taking notes while teary eyed veterans told their tales.

After a long wait and  finally being able to pay the fees-Rs.25 for 30 words for one telegram, I was handed over a receipt stamped14th July 2013- the fateful day the Indian Telegraph breathes her last.



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