"Your name is a part of history now. Mom", read the telegram form in the hand of Shalini Manchanda, a 47-year-old housewife who had queued up at the Central Telegraph Office at Eastern Court in Janpath along with hundreds of other Delhiites on Sunday, when the telegram services ended its 163-year-old run.
The usually quiet Central Telegraph Office at Janpath was bustling with people rushing in to send their last, and in large number of cases first, telegrams.
"I'm sending this telegram to my smart phone-addicted daughter who has never seen a telegram before," Manchanda said. "I have grown up at a time when telegrams were a part of our lives and I wanted her to share that experience," she said.
"Receiving a telegram used to be an exhilarating experience. It could contain very good or very bad news," she said.
Since its beginning in 1850 between Kolkata and Diamond Harbour, the telegram service was the fastest mode of communication once. It started losing the edge after the advent of emails, mobile phones and SMS. Facing mounting losses, the decision to close the services, which is the world's last commercial telegram operation of this scale, was taken last month. The last telegram was booked at 10 pm on Sunday.
As hundreds of people thronged the telegraph office, there was no space to move inside the rather small office and the queue that snaked out had to be managed to let vehicles pass.
"If we would have got such a response earlier, the service wouldn't have closed down," said Sanjay Sinha, Joint General Manager (Public Relations), Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd. "This is a historic moment but also a sad one. We had anticipated such a response and that is why we have deployed additional manpower," he said.
While the office has one counter for booking telegrams, two more counters were opened to handle the rush. While one counter was meant for verifying the forms to check for inaccuracies and for receiving payments, the other two counters were meant for sending the telegrams. One official could be seen handing over forms to people waiting in the queue.
The first timers far outnumbered the ones who had sent telegrams earlier and the experience ones could be seen advising the youngsters on how to fill the form.
"I have never received a telegram and I am sending one to myself as a souvenir. In the age of SMS, telegrams have lost their utility but this would be a nice memorabilia," said Utkarsh Bhatnagar, a college student.