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Manoj Sharma , Hindustan Times
New Delhi, June 30, 2013
The fear of being displaced from a position he has occupied for nearly 30 years haunts 66-year-old Jagdish Sharma. He sits in a corner of the telegraph office at Kashmere Gate, from where he has been writing telegrams for a fee for years now. But all these years, the number has never dwindled so much. These days, he hardly gets 10 customers in a day.

“Not only do telegrams require a condensed form of writing, but also words and style appropriate to the situation and to whom it is addressed,” says Sharma.

There was a time — the 1980s — when Sharma would write at least 150 telegrams in a day. People would make petitions to chief ministers, prime minister or governors; they would complain against government officials; runaway couples would write to their parents informing them of their nuptial; and there were always legal notices to be written.

Jagdish Sharma

“Writing a telegram intimating someone about a death is the most difficult. Those who would approach me would often break down,” says Sharma

Those were the days when he would spend close to 18 hours at the telegraph office.

“I would often come here at 6 in the morning at leave at 2 am, sleeping only for a couple of hours.  I made about R500 a day, which was a lot of money those days. And now I hardly get to write 10 telegrams.”

He blames the mobile phones for this mess. “Now even a rickshaw-puller carries a cell phone. But I still do not keep one,” says Sharma.

In the past couple of years, he has taken up other jobs such as postal packaging.

Ask him what he will do after telegraph offices closes on July 15 and he says, “As of now, I have nowhere to go.”