The postman fishing out a telegram from his satchel is an abiding image in many of our earlier movies, at least for those of us of a certain age. The recipient would tear it open with trembling hands, for there was always an element of urgency about a telegram. But that missive which brought good
or bad news is now moving into history. The Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) has decided to discontinue telegram services from mid-July. It has no takers anymore, indeed many among the young have never seen a telegram. Many telegraph offices have not been receiving a single customer throughout the year. Many offices have been converted into customer care centres, proof if any were needed that this mode of communication has been on life-support for quite a while now. With landline telephones and mobiles phones reaching the deepest of corners of rural India, the telegram has truly become obsolete.
The quest to ‘make the world smaller’ led to the invention of quicker means of communication. When the telegram was introduced in India in the 1850s it was a game changer so much so that it holds a prominent role in aiding the British in India to suppress the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny. Even though telephones were introduced a few decades after the telegraph was introduced, it was no match for the speed and convenience the latter offered. Until the 1990s, which saw rapid growth in the field of telecommunication, telephones were few and far between. The rapid growth in the sector, however, saw the demise of the telegram.
It will now live on in the nostalgic memories of those of us who have actually sent or received a telegram. The telegram joins the illustrious company of woodblock printing, hourglass, typewriter, pager, VHS, 8-track tape, camera film rolls, etc — things that were once of prime importance but today are of little practical use. But if you have some old telegrams, do hang on to them. Soon they may acquire antique value and that would be quite a talking point for you.