Even though over the last two decades I have hardly given a thought nor remembered that telegram existed it was with a sad feeling I read in the newspapers that BSNL was planning to close the telegram services from July 15th of 2013 as it was running on a loss of massive scale. Where at one time Delhi alone was sending one lakh telegrams now the whole country is estimated to be sending one lakh telegrams.
This got me interested to know more about the history of telegraph in India. It was started in the year 1833 by a young Irishman of 24 years William Brooke O' Shaughnessy , who was sent as an Assistant Surgeon by the East India Company. He was asked to string a telegraph line between Kolkatta to Diamond Harbour a distance of 43.5 Kms. The first telegraph message was transmitted in the year 1850 on November 5th. It was opened to the general public from 1855 February.
As a kid I used to associate telegram with sad news of either someone being seriously ill or that someone had passed away. So the moment the person would knock on the door and shout "Telegram Sir" all of us would look at each other and wait for dad to open it and tell us the content. But not all of it was sad it would also be the harbinger of good news such as birth of a baby in the family, or someone getting engaged or date of marriage being fixed and so on.
We all know how important it was to wish the newly wedded couple if one was not able to attend the wedding. So we had lots of telegrams being delivered on the morning of the wedding. I remember during the time I got married, It was with great joy that I received for the first time in my name a host of telegrams from my family and friends who could not make it on the D day wishing me. I have retained all of them and now it would really be souvenirs retained for posterity and one which would give me great joy whenever I want to reminiscence of my special day.
Not only then but we also got congratulatory telegrams on the arrival of our first child from some of our old time relatives who still valued sending telegraphic message than call on the telephone. During that time as long distance calling was expensive we used to send telegrams wishing our near and dear ones through telegrams. I remember once we suddenly decided to send a happy republic day message to our 5 year old nephew on Jan 25th evening to be delivered the next day!!!
But now all that seems so very ancient. My kids do not even know about telegrams except for what they have read as part of their textbook lesson. So we now bid adieu to this once very important tool of communication also known as poor man's quick communication services after 160 years. As The Hindu Newspaper titled its article on this aptly - "Dot, dash, Full stop" - Telegraph service ends on July 15th.