Stop. And proceed: Change ahead

Stop. And proceed: Change ahead

The Postal Department's announcement setting July 15 as the deadline for telegram more than a month earlier is like pronouncing death when the person...

The Postal Department's announcement setting July 15 as the deadline for telegram more than a month earlier is like pronouncing death when the person is on life-support. The demise, we all know, will be coming sooner than later as the 160-year-old telegram has outlived its times. It has become redundant and a vestige of the colonial era, particularly in the last two-three decades when the electronic communications industry in the country started spreading its wings to every nook and cranny.

But for those who have sent and received telegrams announcing births and deaths and job offers, the hand-scripted or typed SMS of a bygone era has an emotional attachment. For that generation whose message-sending memories begin with telegram, not postcard as it was too slow to reach the intended person, burying telegram in history books and consigning the devices that were used � Morse code equipment � for transmitting brief messages to museums is unthinkable.

Already, a lot has been written about telegram memoirs, particularly by journalists for whom it was the only vehicle to send news items from distant places to their news desks. Similarly, scribes have also written epitaphs and elegies and some of them might have shed a few tears for the revered telegram and an institution called Telegraph Office, which, in most cases, was part of the post office.

In fact, the post office itself is fading into history as its primary purpose of sorting out millions of letters and parcels and delivering them to recipients at their respective addresses is defeated by mobile phones and electronic gizmos. In an age where speed matters, instantaneity is the watchword. Press a button and you should be able to connect to the other person thousands of kilometres away in a few seconds. Who has the patience to wait for a letter that takes days to reach its destination? Moreover, who has the time to sit and write letters when we can chit-chat with the other person face to face through video?

Since leisure is not the modern-day norm, the faster the pace of life, the better one feels. Letters and the like are 21st century anachronisms. So are the post offices, many of them still standing as testimony to the British Raj with their colonial era architecture. No surprise, the traditional post offices appear to be out of place and their department is in constant search for ways to modernize and make them contemporary. It is a herculean task. For, need is more powerful than emotional links and we are all witness to such changes.

Take, for instance, fixed telephone which at one time was a symbol of authority, status and prestige. The black instrument, weighing a few kilos, supplied and installed by one and the only Telephone Department, was the pride of the owner and envy of thousands of others. Until the country opened up to economic reforms, telephone use, let alone possession, had been restricted to a privileged few and the 'black beauty' remained elusive to the masses. Fast forward a couple of decades. It has become either a showpiece at home or display instrument in museum. Of course, there are people who are nostalgic about heavy weight fixed phones; and given a chance they will recall how much trouble-free 'service' they have given them.

Similar is the case with fountain pen or fondly called ink pen. After ball-point pen has become popular and it has been 'recognised' for official purposes, ink pens have been hived off. In daily life, we come across so many such things that go into oblivion without being noticed. Radio is one among them. Huge radio sets have given way to transistors which in turn are replaced by mobile phones with thousands of applications. TVs and PCs are still undergoing transformations, both in size and technology.

The most interesting part is many people find what has been discarded and phased out as useless are simpler to use and less complicated than the modern contraptions we use to make our lives a tad easy and comfortable. The reason could be the more sophisticated a device is the more expertise one needs to handle it and, as a result, the relation between man and machine is impertinent. It has no emotive value. It comes only when there is a bond, even if it is lifeless and in any form. So, when the Postal Department puts a stop to telegram on July 15, a chunk of Indian population feels sad because the delivery of good and bad news with a human touch will cease to exist. Expired � Don't repent.

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