As per an internal communication within the BSNL, the services of telegram are to be discontinued from July 15, 2013. The services, which started 160 years ago, will be a thing of the past, losing out to new-age modes of communication such as texting and emails. dna explores the nostalgia associated with this mode of communication which was once the only means of instant messaging

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They were reliable, timely and efficient; they made life convenient

The last time I used telegram was three years ago to send greetings to my cousins in Ludhiana from Pune. Telegrams used to reach the most remote parts of our country. Reliable, timely and efficient; they really made life convenient. Out in the remote areas, the only way we could reach relatives was via telegrams, even years after the STD booth revolution took place.

Manjiree Patawarrdhan, animal rights activist

The age of the oracle dies with the telegram

The demise of anything elicits sadness. The telegram’s death is even sadder because it indicates the end of an era; a way of life. The news whether good or bad news had to wait for a few hours, or even for a couple of days to reach. And we would react to it in an instant manner. In the time of SMSes, emails and cellphones, we need everything instantly. The more instantaneous the news, the more exciting it is. Laying down the telegram to its grave, I see its epitaph carved with Henry Thoreau’s words, “The language of excitement is at best picturesque, merely. One must be calm before you can utter oracles.” With the telegram, the age of the oracle has also died.

N Chandramouli, author of Decoding Communication

Telegrams were used to sent only urgent messages
The last time I used the telegram was about 25 years ago. Telegrams before the fax and teleprinter days, was a communication tool used only in an emergency. In that era, it was the only way of communicating  fast and there was no other option. When we needed to get an urgent message across, in our personal or professional life, we used telegrams. We had a post office just next door and it was very convenient to sent messages quickly through a telegram. The messages sent were usually greetings and there used to be many quick text messages with specific numbers, which had become common after some time. These quick text telegrams looked very formal and mechanical. For long messages, people either used trunk calls and then came the fax and teleprinter days.    

Upendra Dikshit, proprietor, International Book House

It has to fade off to make way for other modes of communication
I can relate to all modes of communication right from the telegram to iPad through our Bollywood movies. I have faint memories of the telegram shown in the old movies, which usually were sent across to inform about emergencies. Today’s world is hugely governed by science and technology and ubiquity is what defines it. The telegram has no place in the time of mobile technology which itself is changing at lightening speed.  The telegram’s speed is nothing compared to the rate at which messages are exchanged in today’s world. I remember my great grandpa, who was a doctor in the army, would send messages to my grandpa via telegraphs. Telegram has lived its age and it has to fade off to make way for other modes of communication. The rate to send a 30-word telegram was Rs25 which does not fit in today’s world. Nowadays, from a maid to a business tycoon, everyone is depended on cellphones.

Anuradda Banerjii, student

Postman’s knock on the door was presumed to be bad news
When I heard that the telegram operations are going to stop, my mind raced to the decades of the 40s and 50s. The postal department was then known as the Department of Posts and Telegrams. The post offices had tapping machines, which operated through Morse code and used long and short sounds to convey alphabets. These were known only to people in post offices. The messages were then translated into words, written on a pink form and the postman used to come personally to deliver it home at odd hours. There was a time when a postman knocked on the door with a telegram and it was presumed that he has brought bad news. People, would start weeping, without waiting to know the contents. The cost would be on the number of words. There were methods of shortening the messages. The post office had code numbers from one to 15 for greetings. Offices had telegraphic addresses, like abridged e-mail IDs.

Subhashchandra Bhosale, Dean, Prithwe Institute of Research and Development


India’s telegraphic tale

1850: Experimental electric telegraph started for first time in India between Kolkata and Diamond Harbour (southern suburbs of Kolkata) by Dr William O’Shaughnessy, an assistant surgeon in the East India Company.

1851: It was opened for the use of the British East India Company. Subsequently, construction of telegraph started throughout India.

1854:  A separate telegraph department was opened to the public. By 1856, the network had expanded to 46 receiving stations.

1902: This year onwards, India drastically changed from cable
telegraph to wireless telegraph, radio telegraph, radio telephone, trunk dialing.

2006: The web-based telegraphy message system (WTMS) was

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