Mumbai: Many staffers wept and hundreds of children ran around the Central Telegraph Offices here to catch a glimpse of history late Sunday night, as the good old telegram faded into history.
All those visiting wanted to taste history, being among the last few to send out telegrams before India officially closed down its 163-year-old telegraph service at 8 p.m. Sunday (July 14, 2013).
"It was an unprecedented rush here last night. All the staffers were present, though it was a Sunday. To handle the rush, against the usual lone telegram counter, we had to open four more, and even those were not sufficient," G.S. Gaur, Sub-Divisional Engineer, Telegraph Section, Mumbai CTO, told IANS here Monday.
On the last day, as many as 7,826 telegrams and 514 phonograms were sent all over India from the CTO near Churchgate, as well as its 10 regional centres in Mumbai.
The CTO earned a handsome revenue of a little over Rs.440,000 on the final day after the telegram bowed out from India to enter the history books.
Of the total 7,826 telegrams booked Sunday, around 4,000 were from a single client, Birla Life Insurance. The rest were from members of the public, Gaur said.
Besides, some schools in Mumbai asked their students to specifically send and receive telegrams to get an experience of an important chapter in the history of communication in the world.
Gaur said that since last night, the number of incoming telegrams from all over India, to be delivered to various addressees in Mumbai, is nearing 1,000.
Figures for the around 50 offices in other parts of the state were not yet available.
In contrast to the rush Sunday, the CTO booked and delivered a total of 45,000 telegrams from Mumbai for entire June, averaging around 1,500 telegrams per day.
"But there was never a rush in the CTO offices since most of these were bulk clients like Indian Navy, Indian Air Force, Indian Army, Bombay High Court and other courts, certain government offices, and banks like HDFC and ICICI," Gaur said.
He explained that contrary to popular perception, the dit-dot-dash Morse Code system had gone defunct around 2000 itself.
"Since 2008, we have been using the Web-based Telegraph Messaging System (WTMS), which is routed through the main server in Thiruvananthapuram. Prior to that we used the electronic teleprinters," he said
Incidentally, the teleprinters and the defunct Morse Code system used to work simultaneously; in major cities and towns, teleprinters were used, and in small villages, the Morse Code system with messages transmitted on open telegraph lines were used, Gaur explained.
In the heydays when telegram was the cheapest and fastest mode of transmitting news for the masses, they pertained mostly to births, deaths, job interviews or selections, birthdays or anniversaries.
On its last day Sunday, many telegraphic messages were for the service itself: "I SALUTE YOU", "PLEASE DO NOT CLOSE TELEGRAM", "YOU WERE A PART OF OUR LIVES", "YOU WILL NEVER DIE", "R.I.P. DEAR TELEGRAM" and so on.