Long and short of it


"Bengali sweets dispatched” is what the telegram from Calcutta (now Kolkata) said but those three seemingly harmless and mouth watering words created a scare and flutter in the security establishment of the Viceroy in Shimla during the British rule.

What had happened was that Sir Chettur Sankaran Nair who was a member of the Viceroy’s Council had invited the Viceroy for a dinner at Inverarm, a house in Shimla that was mostly occupied by Viceroy’s Council. He thought of serving rasgullas for dessert. So he requested Sir Bhupdenranath Basu in Kolkata to send him some rasgullas. Basu obliged and informed Sir Sankaran through a telegram that read “Bengali sweets dispatched.” In those days, the freedom struggle was at its peak and Bengali sweets were code named as bombs among Bengali freedom fighters. The telegram fell into the hands of the police who started making secret inquiries. It was only after the dinner was over that the telegram and the sweets were delivered to Sir Sankaran. This amusing incident has found mention in a coffee table book of the Himachal Tourism department.

Telegrams at one time, the quickest mode of communication, may now have been given a final burial but many a telegram has found a place in books, archives and museums.

The shortest communication through telegram that is mentioned related to famous Irish playwright Oscar Wilde.

It is said that while in Paris, Oscar Wilde cabled his publisher in Britain to see how his new book was doing. The message read, "?" The publisher cabled back, "!"

What could have been shorter than this?

And what is the longest Morse code message ever? The entire text of the Nevada State Constitution! It is reported that on October 26 in 1864, James W. Nye, Governor of the Territory of Nevada sent a telegram to President Abraham Lincoln. A report by Southgate Amateur radio in one its reports said that when certified copies of the Nevada Constitution, sent earlier by overland mail and by sea, had failed to arrive in Washington DC, by October 24, Governor Nye of the Nevada Territory ordered that the State Constitution be sent by wire.

This 175-page transcription of the longest telegram in the holdings of the National Archives was on display in an exhibition entitled “BIG! celebrating the 75th anniversary of the National Archives,” featuring big records, big events, and big ideas – and including this 1864 telegram. The final page shows the total word count of 16,543.

That was the long and short of the ‘telegram’ that is now in the past tense.

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Printable version | Feb 19, 2018 11:38:36 PM |