14th July 2013.
Hariprasad waited on the queue for the two long hours in the scorching heat of Kolkata summer. This was a very special day for him. He woke up early in the morning and after having his morning tea and breakfast he set out for the BSNL office. He expected a huge crowd in front of him and felt irritated when his assumptions turned true.
The octogenarian stood at the end of a comparatively shorter queue. He opened his old black umbrella to avoid direct contact with sun rays. He had a look at the office buildings beside him. He felt very nostalgic looking at the queue and the people standing in front of him. They all had come for the same reason. He used to come to this office since he was a child with his father. Those trips were not so frequent but he could remember the one room office with telephone wires and posts back in those days.
Telephonic services were very expensive in those days. Telegram was somewhat affordable for people like him. As a child, he was fascinated by the telegraphy system. He was curious to know how a machine can transfer written words for so long through wire. He grew up hearing stories of ancient kings and how they communicated among each other using a small note attached to trained pigeons. As a child, he thought these office stuffs did use some trained pigeons. As he grew up, he became interested in telegraphy.
After completing his studies, he started working as an apprentice in BSNL telegraphy department. He went on becoming an expert in his work and gained respect from his colleagues. For him, it was much more than just his work. Machines used to have conversation with him. He was really passionate about his work.
It was one night during pre-independence. Freedom activists had already started attacking telegram booths in order to create communication gap among British bureaucrats. On one fine morning, when he came to office, he could see all employees standing in front of the office gate. They were not able to enter the office. The main gate was locked. Placards and posters awaited them on the entire length and breadth of the gate. All of them were having patriotic slogans. When they broke into the main gate and entered inside, they could see their watchman lying unconscious on the ground. Upon entering the telegram control room, they actually understood what that was all about. All machines were lying broke. The freedom fighters did not spare a single item to work as usual except the wall clock. It showed how times were changing those days politically and socially.
The government declared the office to be shut down and all employees to be appointed in Indian post office nearby. Hariprasad got permanent appointment there. The closed office opened again post the independence with new employees. He had seen the office growing from one house office to a multi storeyed building.
His life continued as a normal one but he always felt excited while using any machine. During his sixties, when Indian Post installed computer system, it ignited her dormant interest. He tried very hard to learn the system. Times were changing very fast. He had witnessed communication changing from telegram to broadband internet.
He was very fond of his grandson Vijay who was a computer engineer, working in Bangalore that time. When Vijay was in Kolkata, studying engineering, he used to teach his grandfather how to use internet. It was Vijay, who introduced him to Twitter.
Hariprasad felt a strange similarity between twitter now days and telegram posts back in his childhood. Messages in both of them are really short and restricted. You could address a post of your to someone by their name on twitter. Advancement in technology brought a lot more new features to it but instantly it reminded him of his old days. The twitter logo reminded him of the stories of communication among ancient kings.
This day was special to him. It was the last service day of BSNL telegraphy service in India. They could not cope up with the losses incurred due to emerging technologies and hence the government decided to shut it down. All these people standing in front of him were last persons who would use that service.
He was thinking about old days and gradually came in front of the service desk. He took out a note from his pocket and gave it to the young lady sitting opposite to him on the service desk.
She asked smiling ‘Uncle, whom is it you are sending to last telegram?’
‘It is Vijay, my grandson. He is in Bangalore. I want to wish him a very happy year ahead. God bless him. It is his birthday. Everyone is wishing him on twitter. I, his grandfather, want this day to be memorable for both of us. I want to wish him over telegram’ replied Hariprasad gleefully.