The Telegraph Is No More! Reply

For Thursday – July 18th 2013.

Between Us Only!

The Telegraph Is No More!

Where we  used to live as kids was this island off the main coast of Tanzania called Mafia – from the famous Omani Arabic word of ‘She Without’ – or locally known as Chole before the emigrating Omanis had named it as such! The reason was they were comparing this island with the bigger islands of what was once The Sultanate of Zanzibar – comprising the islands of Unguja and Pemba – and several others – and the eastern coasts of Africa – from Somalia to Mozambique as now! Mafia island is about 120 kilometres south of the commercial capital city of Tanzania named Dar es Salaam – the city of peace – by Sultan Majid – the Zanzibar ruler then!

Telegram 1 Telegram 2

 Images – Telegrams – For Demonstration Purposes Only!

I was watching the mixed emotions of India closing down The Telegraph services as no more longer feasible and economical with the advent of the Internet, SMS and mobile phones (GSMs)! It reminded me of my youth days – where the only communication at the time with the outside world was the telegraph services – and even the radio to radio services sometimes did not work when there was bad weather and storms – which frequently hit the island! It would rain continuously day in and day out – for even 2 to 3 weeks unending and incessantly! My late father was a business person – shop keeper and transporter – and also as a plantation farmer – and many articles in my columns have been about this as kids!

In one of the funny anecdotes in India was this man sending a telegram to his son in UK – and it took 2 days to reach him there. The son was retorting to the father – why did you not send me an email – or a SMS message instead? And the father replying that ‘old habits die hard – and I just did not think about it then’! In the olden days when you received a telegraph it was usually associated with bad news – that is why people dreaded most when one received a telegram! Though sometimes came in good news – like it is a boy! Or a girl!

Telegram 3 Telegram A

Images – Telegrams – For Demonstration Purposes Only!

 In the place – there was this mysterious and weird strange Omani called ‘The Bedouin’! Nobody knew who gave him or ‘framed him’ that name – except it stuck until his dying day when it was said loud for all to hear that Mr. Bedouin had died! He was a loner – a mysterious and keep to himself individual – and he used to scare some of us that he had magical and bewitching powers! He went to Africa alone – leaving all his family behind!

It was rumoured that he had ‘magical powers’ and he could fly at night all the way to our home town Hayll Al Ghaaf in Quriyaat – though originally our grandparents came from Manah! One day I teased him ‘to teach me to fly with him’ – and he retorted that ‘you need to be really brave to be able to achieve such a feat’ – when I teased him – M being M even as a boy! – that I wanted to see his magic carpet he flew at night times!

Bedouin Carpet

Mysterious Flying Spotted!

Seriously though,  he would fly more during dates harvest times – and what he showed us was real fresh dates – but everyone was scared to ‘try them’ – and this made him more sad, lonely and miserable! I have not seen the dates myself – but my late elder brother – born in Oman – swore he did – and even ate some! Our poor late mother warned us to keep away from the person – but poor late dad with the usual S tribe sense of humour and wit – thought it all funny!

Coming to the point – one day this Bedouin came to the family shop – and called out loud – Said Nasser? (my father!) – Come out here! I have bad news to tell you! As most people had already discounted him already – anyway my father invited him in! But the man insisted for my father to come out to be seen visibly clear! Then he told my father – Your Mother yesterday night had died in Oman – Allah Preserve our soul! He repeated the message twice!

Telegram B

Images – Telegrams – For Demonstration Purposes Only!

My late father – I could see his face turn all the colours – but there was still denial. Then he said to my father – If you don believe me – please mark the time and day. 40 days later the letter arrived from Oman – and it was all true and correct! At the time was the joke our late father had received an Express Telegram from Oman – but the joke died soon afterwards when the letter came! The letter was the confirmation that we needed to take the person more seriously – even if we refused to accept the ripening dates he brought back!

Mafia 1 Mafia 2

 Images – Mafia Island.

Another incident I remembered as a boy of 10 then in that island of Mafia, was losing the money for the telegram my late father was sending to the Income Tax department in the capital – thus a very important document! I was scared to tell my father – so I begged the Post Official ‘that I will pay him one day’ – but please send the telegram for now! When I told him why I was so scared to tell my father the truth – he sent the telegram as requested – but he accompanied trembling me to my father to get the money – and ‘not to scare your children that much – old man’! The money was never found – and even after frequent retracing of my steps from home to the Post Office per se!

Years later, when in the oil company as a young man – until the 1980s – we used to still use telegraphic messages and telegrams! As a HR Officer, I could send messages to especially UK – but also to The Netherlands and USA – Houston! And also receive messages! During duty week times,  I was able to get to read all the telexes that came in for the company – even confidential and oil related – and the ‘coded’ ones too! The power was calling the concerned parties for action – for 3 days every 3 months you got to act as the MD of the Company! Just imagine – all the power and so associated and related – just because of telegraphic messages then!

In the UK as a student then in the 1970s, you could dictate a telegram by the phone! So I was sending this telegram to our relatives in Dar es Salaam – Tanzania – but later we found out it was sent to Jerusalaam in Palestine instead! The pun was taken out as the message was very important at the time!

Like they say in life all good things do not last – and they have to end one day! But ‘the Bedouin story’ beats all odds and everything the telegram did – or was able to do! First of all – there were no telegrams then in the home town – and how, where and how you will address it – even if there were? Just imagine!

Take Care! Ramadhan Kareem!

By Majid Al Suleimany

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