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The building which stores dead letters

4 November, 2020 13:59:21
The building which stores dead letters

Did you ever lose a letter you wrote or failed to receive one that someone else did? May be that letter never reached you because of postal problems, or wrong addresses! But Kolkata never buried such ‘lost letters.’ Instead, for decades now, all the letters of the city that didn’t make it to their owners have been stored at the Old Telegraph Office, more popularly known as the Dead Letter Office. This building was started in 1876, for sorting of mails coming into Bengal. If a letter can’t be sent to someone because of an error in the address, if the recipient has passed away or any other reason, then the letter gets stored here.

The building was completed in 1876, when Lord Lytton was the Governor General of British India. And ever since then, all letters with untraceable addresses have been going straight into this building. Located at the corner of Dalhousie Square East and Dalhousie Square South, the building is also known for its architectural splendor. Probably you never missed it, while going past the busy crossing, though you might not have known what the building harbours. It’s a 120-feet-tall bell tower, oddly without a clock, and ornate detailing, which remind us of iconic British style architecture.

This ‘morgue of mails’ should have an exhibition someday, and who knows you might even get hold of a letter that you forgot to post! Usually, post offices try to deliver letters to the addressee but if the name or address is undecipherable or wrong or incomplete, if the addressee has changed his address with no forwarding address, or if the letter / parcel is refused to be accepted by the party concerned normally, they are sent back to the sender. But at times, the name and address of the sender is not given. In that case the letter or parcel is sent to the morgue!

Earlier after a year letters were burnt and articles were auctioned. But today, they are shredding all letters before disposing those and auctioning all the goods recovered from the parcels through approved auctioneers after taking permission from postal authorities. The sale proceeds from the auction are deposited in the unclassified receipts of the Department including cash, cheques and drafts.

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