JournalismPakistan.com July 17, 2013
I first began to dread telegrams in 1961 when at the age of 12 I happened to receive that ghastly pinkish-white envelope with the cryptic message stating that my uncle had been killed in an air-crash and I read it out to everyone in a sort of sing song voice (the novelty of being the recipient) as if it was an invitation to dinner and there was that stunned silence and then the shattering of the atmosphere.
For half a century I have loathed the damned things because they always meant bad news. Your mouth would go dry, your heartbeat rise and you felt sick as the hideous little paper oozed into your life.
They were the SMS of our generation and the ones with good news came with a gaudy, color band so you knew the difference. The good news was usually wishing you a happy birthday nothing more. Life in those days was strongly predicated to no news is good news.
And then that postman would come and shout ‘teleeeeeeegrammmmm’ at the oddest hours and everyone would rush to sign for it and tip the harbinger of bad news because you knew it was bad news, the damn paper square had a stench about it and with shaky hands a family member would tear at it until there were these half loose teletype lines taking the sun out of the sky or worse.
And this week, India closed down the service for good, that ubiquitous communique a part of our history but not a part of my happiest memories.
I am sure it did a great job and bully for that. But everything is association and I don’t mind if I never get another one in my life, it is just one of those things.
People have been writing all those mushy, sweet what’s the cliché “down memory lane” articles about the demise of the telegram and making it so romantic and all I can think of are those indistinct ghastly two liners (there were never much longer) of block letters telling you who had called it quits.
So, what the telegram did to folks has been done to the telegram…called it quits. And so be it.
(The writer is a Senior Editorial Advisor of Khaleej Times and the paper’s former Editor. He has also been the Editor of Gulf News, Gulf Today, Emirates Today and Bahrain Tribune)
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