“Telegram!”–a shrill voice from outside–was enough to create anxiety in the minds of people as no other mode of communication could. For obvious reasons, a telegram was always associated with either good or bad news as it stood for urgency of purpose. The thrill and anxiety associated with telegrams would no longer be felt as the service is being disbanded for good on July 15 but its romance would persist at least among those, who were born at a time when telegrams were in vogue.
“I want to create the suspense, the thrill once more by sending telegrams for the first and last time,” said 30-year-old Vaibhav Sinankar, who had come to BSNL office in New Market to dispatch telegrams after reading about the decision to disband the telegram service in newspapers. He sent as many as nine telegrams that day just for the sake of it.
Business executive Sinankar said, “A phone call, message, voice chat, would not have the suspense and effect that the telegram created in the 80's. I am sending telegrams to my family members to experience the service which was such an important part of our parents' life.”
India's 160-year-old telegram service is being discontinued on July 15 due to falling business. Telegram, a popular and quick way of communication before mobile phones revolutionised communication in the country, is being phased out. Elderly people and 'tar babus' as telegram clerks used to be called, turn nostaligic while reacting to government's decision to discontinue the telegram service but they realise at the same time that it has outlived its utility and must now bid adieu. Retired tar babu (telegram clerk) SR Ali said, “I spent my life sending and receiving telegrams. At the time of Bhopal gas tragedy, we sent and received more than 50,000 telegrams in a day. People who were fine used to send three words- ‘All is well’ but those who lost their relatives and family members used to send ‘we lost ours’. The three words were enough to give solace and express grief both. “But, now we are in an age where photos get transferred in an instant and videos are just a way of life. We share our emotions in social network sites and express our views on blogs. After seeing the current technology, I feel the service should be closed down. I can’t welcome the move, but I can’t criticise it too.”
There are certain things in life that can disappear but their memories can’t be erased. Telegram service, which was a must in the past, is now obsolete and is being wound up. But it will remain in our heart, mind and soul even if it stops existing, said Ali.