Guess how much has telegraph services improved in India in the 163 years between 1850 and 2013, the years of its birth and death in this country.
In 1850 the first telegram in India sent from Kolkata to Diamond Harbour, a distance of more than 40 kms, took two hours and a half to reach its destination. In 2013, the country’s last telegram took almost nine days to reach its recipient about barely 15 km away.
Strictly speaking, the last telegram did not even reach its addressee. An impatient Sujata Dutta, to whom it was sent, reached Ariadaha post office on Monday afternoon and took the telegram. It was sent at 11.10 pm on July 14 by stamp collector Gour Chakraborty from the Central Telegraph Office (CTO) at Dalhousie area of Kolkata, a distance of about 15 kms from Ariadaha.
“I booked the telegram to become the last sender in the world. I expected it to reach my sister’s residence in Ariadah within next 48 hours. But on Monday, I felt restless and took my sister at our local post office. The telegram reached the office only on Monday and instead of relying on them to dispatch it at home we collected it from there,” Chakraborty told HT.
On July 14, Chakraborty had a tough time cajoling the CTO employees. He put in a day of voluntary hard work typing out dozens of messages of the senders who had queued up on the last day at the office to allow him to be the last to send a telegram in history.
“I am happy that it completed its journey as the world’s last telegram finally reached its recipient. But a bit disappointed to see the improvement of telegraph services in India in the last 163 years,” Chakraborty ridiculed.
CTO officials explained that the unusual delay was because of an acute lack of infrastructure, complicated by the huge rush to send off telegrams on the last day.
After the telegrams were booked, CTO officials took printouts of the messages, sorted them into batches and sent them to the recipients through speed post. They claimed that, on average, the office had dispatched only about 30 to 40 telegrams a day over the past three to four years.
“But, on the last day, we had to dispatch about 400 telegrams and it took time to sort through them all. Finally, on Friday, we managed to finish posting all the telegrams. It could be that Gaur’s message was in the last lot of the day, in which case it would have reached the recipient at her address by Tuesday,” a senior CTO official said.