July 14 that witnessed the end of 163-year-old telegram service in India saw a large number of people turn to CTO for sending the last telegram of their life. However, many of them ended up using a service similar to telegram called phonogram, which died an uncelebrated death unlike its much celebrated twin.
Phonogram was the service that started along with telegram in Chandigarh. It was unknown to most of the people who came to send telegrams to their friends and relatives.
Explaining the functioning of a phonogram, Animesh Rana, senior telegram master at CTO who worked with the telegram department for 30 years, said, “Suppose one cannot come to the telegram office and wants to send an urgent telegram. Then he could call up CTO and book his message on the phone. For this, one needs to provide their BSNL number. The bill for the phonogram message would be included in the sender’s monthly bill. Rs 5 extra were to be paid on each phonogram.”
According to Rana, after 8 pm on July 14, the computer system was switched off. CTO was unable to book and send any more telegrams after that. “There were people standing in the queue waiting for their turn. We did not want to return anyone disappointed. So we booked their messages through phonogram,” he said.
Rana added, “Telegram has a very special place in my life. I have worked with it for so many years. When I saw people standing, I could not disappoint them. I used my own BSNL number to book phonogram for the people who did not have a BSNL connection. On average I took Rs 30 from everyone, no matter if it cost me more than that.”
Charanjeet Kaur, a senior telegram master, said, “I am still working on the bills of the phonogram. In some cases the charges have been included in the bill but some remains to be included.”
Talking about the important customers of phonogram, Kaur said, “Central Broad of Secondary Education used to book many phonograms in the past, basically to intimate schools about important dates.”
According to Rana, CTO booked more than 110 phonograms on July 14 and the last telegram basically being a phonogram was booked in the name of a senior BSNL official at 11 pm. Sumit Sagar Dogra who was one of the many people to send the telegram on July 14 said though he knew about