The last telegram in India can be sent on July 14. From July 15 BSNL which operates the telegram services in India (and not India Post, as The Times of India seems to believe), will discontinue the 160-year-old service.
More than the Internet and email, it is the mobile phone that has led to the demise of the original character-constrained mode of communication (extra words cost extra money).
Before the bifurcation of the Indian Posts and Telegraph Department in 1985, the services were very much a part of the postal department. The postman’s shout of telegram was a cause of anxiety for families as the telegram for the Indian with limited resources was more often than not a courier of bad news (usually death of someone in the family).
I remember sending a few telegrams as a child (thankfully conveying good news) and filling in the form carefully in my neatest possible handwriting. I also liked the way the message was printed on a thin strip of paper that was then pasted on a larger sheet to be delivered to the addressee. But things have changed a lot. Telegrams are no longer sent over telegraph lines, but via the Internet and the message is printed out in the destination station and delivered by hand.
The telegraph also revolutionised the news industry and we still call our news agencies wire services.
While I am still looking for a classic example of an Indian telegram message, here’s a pre-Independence version of the form used to write in the message.