‘Telegram dead’; ‘Goodbye telegram’; ‘RIP telegram. Show this to your grandchildren’ — despite the writing on the wall, and indeed, the last telegrams she was transmitting signalling the end of the 163-year-old service, it was yet to sink in for V. Vasantha, telegraph master at the BSNL headquarters here on Tuesday, that it was her last day at the job.

“The last of the 1,388 telegrams received on Sunday have been transmitted to the respective telegraph offices,” Ms. Vasantha told The Hindu as she keyed in a message through the web-based telegraph message switches system. “For us, sending messages had become mechanical. But, we read the last few messages carefully.”

This reporter tried looking over her shoulder at the messages she was transmitting — ‘The telegram retires today with no plans and no future. Do you have any future plans?’ said one philosophical sender — even as her colleague, Loknath V., had a friendly warning: “Do not disclose the name of the person. We are bound by the secrecy clause.”

By 4 p.m. on Tuesday, the staff of the telegraph office had finished transmitting all 1,388 telegrams received on Sunday. Mr. Loknath and sub-divisional engineer Krishnamurti said the telegrams would be sent to the telegraph offices or service centres concerned, after which they would be sent to the respective post-offices with a Rs. 5 postage stamp, to be later delivered by a postman.

By evening, Ms. Vasantha, an employee in the telegraph department for 30 years, was wondering what her next job would be. While most people will work in the same building in other departments, others will work at other branches in BSNL.

Mr. Loknath said all staff were given souvenirs of a blow up of a telegram that read: ‘Telegraph services commenced from 1857 and golden era ended on 15th July with sweet memories.’

An employee here for 32 years, he said, “From working for Rs. 2 an hour, we have come a long way.”

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