More than 160 years after its invention, the world’s last telegram message will be sent somewhere in India on July 14, 2013. That’s according to this story in CS Monitor, which provides some fascinating details:
An important tool of British colonial administration and control in India, the telegram is connected with some key moments in Indian history, such as helping the British put down a popular revolt in 1857 and being the mode of communication with which Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru informed London of Pakistan’s invasion of Kashmir.
Colloquially known as “taar” or wire in India, the telegram has been a part of Indian life, a metaphor for an urgent message, bypassing the delays of the postal system. Responsible for a twist in the plot of many a Bollywood film, telegrams were often the harbinger of the news of the death of a family member. Today, death telegrams, still priced at a fifth of the regular fee, account for less than 1 percent of telegram traffic.
Some statistics on the decline of the telegram use in India:
At their peak in 1985, 60 million telegrams were being sent and received a year in India from 45,000 offices. Today, only 75 offices exist, though they are located in each of India’s 671 districts through franchises. And an industry that once employed 12,500 people, today has only 998 workers.
A number of telegrams are from runaway couples who marry secretly because their parents wouldn’t let them marry in the wrong caste, class, or religion. “They inform their parents that they are married, and fearing violence from the family, inform the police and the National Human Rights Commission,” he said.
So what will they resort to now? Facebook? Twitter? Something else?