The list was long and on top of it was scrawled – “Greetings, you are one of the lucky ones to receive a wire in the age of wireless” – a clever word-play in the epoch of text messages and emails.
The message was from 21-year-old Raunaq Sawhney’s father to himself.
Raunaq let it slip that he had been “forced” to make a trip to the Central Telegraph Office (CTO) at Janpath. His father wanted him to be part of something memorable and dispatched him with a handful of messages to be sent to family members who all live under the same roof.
Ever since news trickled in that the telegram or taar – the bearer of good, bad and ugly news – will disappear once and for all on July 15, people have stormed the CTO to fill out “souvenir” telegrams where the address of the receiver and the sender are the same.
Farewell messages to the telegram and messages of love to family and friends have been handwritten and passed across the counter by people who previously had no idea where the telegraph office was.
“There have been many things that have been closed down or discontinued without us knowing. I had to have a souvenir telegram,” says Megha Sunger, who used her lunch break to send her parents and a close friend messages. She recollected English lessons in school that taught her how to write a telegram but over the years it faded away just like the lesson on how to write ‘Letters to the Editor’.
While Raunaq light-heartedly recollected that the telegram lesson helped him score a few marks in the English exams, three-year-old Aparajita Hiya may have never known such a thing existed if her mother had not insisted that the child send one to her grandmother.
“She should have sent at least one telegram in her life,” says Aparajita’s mother Antara Dev Sen.
Ms. Sen had sent her first telegram when she was in Class IX. A simple message of “I miss you” to her mother who was away on a short business trip to Mysore. “I must have really missed her,” she recalls, laughing. “I walked to the telegraph office in Calcutta on my own and sent it off.”
As for young Aparajita, there were just too many things distracting her from filling up the words “Love you Diyamon” addressing her grandma. So her mother thought it best to take some forms home to work on filling them overnight.
But before returning home, it was time for a souvenir photograph in the telegraph office with a list of “Standard Phrases for Greeting Telegrams” adorning the wall. Given the circumstance, number 31 was most appropriate – Wish you a happy retired life. STOP.