(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)
I sent my first and last telegram over the weekend, thanks to the flood of newspaper reports that warned of India’s telegraph service winding up after more than 160 years.
My curiosity was fuelled by memories of Bollywood movies from the 1960s and 70s. On receiving a telegram, the hero’s mother either fainted or treated the family to sweetmeats – depending on whether the news was good or bad.
The best known telegram in Indian fiction is probably the one in R.K. Narayan’s “Malgudi Days” collection. In a popular short story, the fictional messenger doesn’t deliver a telegram with news of a relative’s death because it could have ruined someone’s wedding day.
But my news wasn’t as momentous. My telegram was to be a souvenir, one of the few thousand dispatched on July 14, the day India shut its state-run telegraph service for good.
I sent a telegram to my mother in Dwarka, an outlying neighbourhood of New Delhi. It’s been 48 hours and she still hasn’t received it.