May 29, 2002

AGS 4760: Senior Seminar I

Telegram Assignment: Option 3


Carpe Diem?

Last Friday I found myself at Delmar Restaurant digesting Parashu Pradhan’s short story The Telegram on the Table along with my fish and chips dinner. The specifics of Pradhan’s story did not seem to relate to my life in any direct way, but as I read, a struggle to hold back tears suggested otherwise. My self-assessment was downgraded from independent, erudite and enlightened to sad, lonely and insecure. I have come to trust that emotional responses such as this indicate a connection to something that analytical thinking processes tend to overlook. With this essay I plan to provide a brief summary of The Telegram on the Table followed by a cognitive interpretation of what Pradhan so effectively conveyed to my emotions.

Narrated in the third person, The Telegram on the Table relates the "discordant" thoughts ruminating in the mind of man named Krishna, as he tosses and turns in his bed, exhausted after a long day’s work but unable to sleep. Flashing back to the events of the day and the previous few weeks reveals that ten years earlier he moved from a small village to large city where he lives in an inadequate, over-priced apartment. He is menially employed as a tour guide. Krishna is enamored with the west and at the same time expresses a deep, prideful connection to his own culture. He dreams about traveling to New York with blue-eyed tourist girls, but also expresses a desire to return to his village in Nepal where he would dance to folk songs with old friends.

Early in the story, a friend offers condolences to an emotionless Krishna for some great tragedy that has occurred in his life. Not only does Krishna appear to be unmoved by this tragedy, he thinks that "perhaps" he is happy, for now he is totally free to "achieve what he aimed for." It comes as somewhat of a shock to learn that the telegram referred to in the title reveals that Krishna had a wife that he abandoned ten years earlier and that she had recently died. In spite of having convinced himself that she had never meant much to him, he is troubled by his inability to feel the sadness and remorse typically associated with such a tragedy. When it occurs to him that because of choices he had made he was now totally alone, disconnected from other people as well as himself in any meaningful way, he finally begins to feel his anger. As he rips apart the telegram, he begins to cry.

I interpret The Telegram on the Table to be a warning of the danger of going through life burdened with unresolved issues from the past while waiting for some hoped for, but not guaranteed, future event to bring happiness and fulfillment. With the exception of clairvoyants and time-travelers, direct interaction and involvement with individuals or events in the past or the future is not possible. I cannot converse with a dead father or an unborn son. Krishna had invested so much of himself in a fantasy universe, void of challenges and validations common to normal human interaction, a world in which empathy became superfluous. Like Lou Gherig’s legs, his emotions atrophied. After spending so much time in a world that was not real, it is no wonder that his thoughts became discordant. I think that what finally pushed Krishna over the edge was recognizing how much of his life had gone by that he had not participated in. There is a rather crude axiom that suggests that living with one foot in the past and one foot in the future guarantees that you piss all over today. Simply stated, the message of The Telegram on the Table is that emotional death is the inevitable result of not living in the moment.

In the opening paragraph of this essay I mentioned that I had read The Telegram on the Table while eating dinner. Dining alone on a Friday night in a restaurant filled with couples, families and groups of friends cannot help but trigger feelings of loneliness and alienation. I have found that in this type of situation, reading somehow makes me feel invisible and in a twisted way, it makes me feel superior. The incongruity of this statement, like the "discordant" thoughts of Krishna, does not escape me. Like Krishna’s apartment, Delmar Restaurant is temporary. A haven for people unconcerned with cholesterol or second-hand smoke, Delmar Restaurant is neither chic nor gourmet. It appeals to a mostly blue-collar clientele interested more in quantity than quality. However, it suits my needs for the time being. It is the perfect place for me to hide until I finish school, build a garage, save some money, start to work-out, meet the right woman, etc.

When I was twenty-six I married a girl from the neighborhood that I had been going steady with since I was eighteen. She was very beautiful and I am sure that at some level I loved her very much yet I always wanted her to be someone other than who she was. Within two years we were divorced. It was a very difficult time for me emotionally, but like Krishna, I thought that this was necessary for me to really achieve what I aimed for. Later in life I came to understand that much of my inability to accept her was merely a projection of an inability to accept myself. In the years since my marriage ended I have tried to do many things to improve myself, returning to school being a prime example. In the process of summarizing and interpreting The Telegram on the Table I was able to better understand the sadness I felt when I first read it. I’m sure that some of the feelings had to do with my failed marriage and other things that I had screwed up. I think what really hit me hard though was the recognition of my tendency to live in the future at the expense of today – and the awareness that I have already used up half of my allotment of todays.

Student Papers


Interdisciplinary Studies Program  Wayne State  University