Some people become a part of our memories and leave an indelible mark on our mind due to their sheer disposition and manner. Same was the case with one Mr Sulla Khan (name changed), the then Telegraph overseer in the CTO (Central Telegraph Office).
With his stylish turban on his head, he looked taller than he was. His specs on his long pointed nose would make him look different from others. His work involved sorting out telegrams in different bundles, according to different beats or the areas, and then giving them to telemen for delivery.
Sulla khan would greet us in his own style and would at times add “Mubarak Mubarak”. This peculiar habit of his would bemuse some of us while others would ignore it. On enquiring about his habit of saying “Mubarak Mubarak” from his close friends, a different story came to light.
It dated back to the days when Sulla Khan was himself a teleman delivering telegrams in his beat in Habba Kadal. While doing so, he had developed intimacy with the people there. His telegrams would at times contain good news of joyous events like the birth of a baby, or wishes sent on a festive occasion, intimation of an interview, etc. On receiving such joyful news the recipient would give him some tip. He thus developed a habit of saying “Mubarak Mubarak” while delivering telegrams so that the recipient gives him a tip. People would wait for him at the nukkad of lanes and bylanes for their telegrams. He was recognised from a distance coming on his bicycle and people would clap their hands to welcome him.
One day he delivered a telegram to a person, wishing him “Mubarak Mubarak”(Congratulations) as usual. The recipient presumed it to contain some good news, gave him a tip, and away he went on his bicycle. But as ill luck would have it, when the telegram was opened and read, it carried sad news of the death of a relative in a distant state. People ran after Sulla Khan with sticks and lathis to teach him a lesson, but he was nowhere to be found! From that day he never returned to the lanes of Habba Kadal, but his habit of saying “Mubarak Mubarak” stayed with him.
Came retirement date and Sulla Khan bade us goodbye and away went he to his home with his turban, bicycle, specs, salaams and Mubaraks and was nowhere to be found again. Came internet, mobile phones, broadband and other faster means of communication, the telegram also bade us goodbye as the CTO was closed. The service no longer existed and the telegram vanished from our world just like Sulla Khan.
—The writer is a retired telecom engineer. [email protected]