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Many send telegrams ‘for the record’

R. Krishna Kumar
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A first for him:Ever since the government announced the shutdown of telegram service with effect from July 15, there has been a sudden interest in the service and bookings of greeting telegrams.— Photo: Monica Tiwari
A first for him:Ever since the government announced the shutdown of telegram service with effect from July 15, there has been a sudden interest in the service and bookings of greeting telegrams.— Photo: Monica Tiwari

The last telegram from the Central Telegraph Office in Mysore will be booked on Sunday evening, closing a service that was first introduced in the city in 1855 when telegraphic lines were extended from Madras (now Chennai).

The existing staff, who will be posted in other departments, have planned a get-together at 4 p.m. on Sunday, before they become part of history.

The Mysore Gazetteer notes that Bombay to Calicut via Bangalore and Mysore was one of the 13 main lines of internal communication that existed in the 1860s.

Ever since the government announced the shutdown of telegram service with effect from July 15, 2013 all over India, there has been a sudden interest in the service and bookings of greeting telegrams — for sentimental reasons.

The staff at the Central Telegraph Office here told this correspondent that they were getting quite a few customers since the announcement was made and people wanted to retain the message as a souvenir. A few customers also booked phonograms. Some of them were teenagers who have not seen a telegram.

Even as this correspondent was at the CTO, Ramesh, a financial investment consultant, came to book a telegram. He said: “I am sending this telegram to my little nieces. I want them to keep it as a record so that when they see it, they will remember what a telegram was,” he added.

Yet another customer booked a telegram to his family which read ‘Telegram services will be history from July 15, 2013. Retain this message for posterity.’ This cost him Rs. 30.35 for local delivery.

From a peak of 1,200 telegrams a day, it is down to 10 telegrams a day at the CTO and most of it is season’s greetings. Despite the popularity and the omnipresence of mobile phones and Internet, private financial companies used to send telegram messages to defaulters. It came handy as it was a legal document and admissible in court, according to officials.

The Air Force Selection Board located in Mysore used to book telegrams in bulk and send 150 to 200 telegrams a day on an average during the recruitment season. These were military telegrams calling the addressee for interview.

The network of telegraph offices increased and peaked in the 1980s when there were more than 165 telegraph offices in Mysore alone, according to the gazetteer. The emergence of Internet and mobile phones by the turn of the century entirely changed the scenario.

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