We cannot do anything about events that happened hundreds of years back, created history but never got to be in the heritage list. But events that happen in our lifetime and then allowed to sink into the endless and dark cauldron of history without anyone even trying to make them relive as a heritage happens only when the government behaves like a doctor who is in the habit of sending his patients to the mortuary more than anything else.

I am talking of ‘The Telegram’ that will breathe its last today. I was at the telegram office yesterday and was surprised to see a queue there. Yes, this crowd was not the sort of crowd this office had seen for ages and so the people manning the seats inside were hassled but happy. The people coming in were all sending their ‘last’ or final telegram and I got talking to a few of them. Their responses were as varied as they could be…

‘I am here to show my grandson what a telegraph office looks like.’

‘We were just passing through and thought of joining the queue that is going to be there just another time.’

‘I am twenty-one and I have never sent nor received a telegram. So I came to experience the feeling.’

‘Nostalgia. I am here to relive once more the thrill of browsing through the list of standard phrases and decide which one to choose for this last telegram. I hope they have created one specially for this occasion.’

I wanted to tell all these excited folks that they were actually there to be a part of the final journey of a system that had connected the nation just a few years back. Is the telephone responsible for this day? Or is it the internet that finally made it call it a day? Did the SMSes, the MMSes, the emails, the tweets, and the blogs have anything to do with making us say RIP to The telegram today?

Well, it is a little of all these factors that managed to make our bureaucrats and the government decide to do away with this wonderful messenger that went about at all hours to send good tidings as well as news that brought tears to the eyes. No, the morse code machine days were over now… and there were no teleprinters too anywhere in the office… all we could see were computers with their web-based messaging system software and printers that we all know of so well.

I asked one of the staff inside how he was taking in this demise and he shook his head sadly and said, ‘They didn’t really need to kill this relationship like this.’ By the way, I was also told that the Indian army was still using the telegraph services and the office in Eastern Courts in New Delhi was still receiving about a hundred telegrams every day!

No, he didn’t say anything after that but it made me think about the callous and insensitive way our think-tank functions… and they’re not just callous, they are probably short-sighted as well. Why couldn’t they have let the telegraph offices live? Why couldn’t they have converted them all into a healthy tourist attraction that is functional as well? Why couldn’t they have re-introduced the teleprinters  and the dit-dat-da machines of the past? If someone from the think-tank is reading this post, please think of re-inventing and re-structuring the telegram houses of India. Let them be places of cursory and insightful interest for the tourist… let the old systems too be there in functional order and working along with the new computer-based technology… these offices be a part of the Indian heritage and not just be relegated to the dust and grime of the past. Just imagine the intriguing sound of the morse machines mingling with the buzz of excited tourists and the boundary of the office merging seamlessly into a coffee house!

Our people really don’t ever thing off the beaten track, do they? I wish they did. I wish the telegram remained alive. I wish we weren’t so busy throwing everything into the ignited fires of history. I wish we cared to keep heritage live and kicking!

2013_07_15_The Education Post_The telegram - History or heritage

2013_07_15_The Education Post_The telegram – History or heritage

This article was also published in Awazaapki.com and can be accessed here:

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awazaapki.com_2013_07_22_The telegram_01

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Arvind Passey
Written on 14 July 2013
Published in ‘The Education Post’ dated 15 July 2013