Why are you looking so sad?” Ullu, the wise old owl, asked Kabbu, the white pigeon.
“You too would look sad if you were going to lose your job,” snapped Kabbu.
Kabbu was the head of the Postal Department of their jungle Olango, which was the biggest and most prosperous jungle around. Kabbu and his fleet of 21 pigeons carried letters, parcels, money orders, postal orders, etc., from Olango to the other jungles and back. Their fleet was considered the smartest, fastest and easily the most efficient in all of Jungledom. Kabbu’s Postal Department had won several awards for the quality and the efficiency of its service.
“Who told you that you are going to lose your job?”
“No one has to tell me. It is pretty obvious. Have you heard of the Internet?” Kabbu demanded.
“Is… is it some new kind of net the humans have designed to trap us?” Ullu made a wild guess.
“Ha! You are supposed to be wise, but your wisdom seems to be all outdated. To put it simply, the Internet is a way for all the computers to talk to each other. Sitting in one corner of the world, we can be in touch with anyone anywhere through the great power of the Internet. We can also access every imaginable piece of information using the Internet. It has already come to Olango in a big way. Our King, Cybersher, has the latest computer with an Internet connection. He spends the whole day surfing the Net. He has also made many friends in cyberspace and chats with them for hours. His wife, Sherni, is quite upset with him. He refuses to take her shopping and doesn’t help with their cub, Chhotu’s, homework. The other day, when Cybersher’s mother-in-law came for a visit, turned out to be the last straw. Do you know what he did? He refused to even greet her with a roar because he was so busy on the Net! When Sherni complained, Cybersher said, “I am now a netizen — a citizen of the Net. Cyberspace is my world and the World Wide Web my universe!”
Ullu’s head started spinning after listening to Kabbu’s long description of Cybersher’s new fascination. All these strange words were getting too much for him: Internet, cyberspace, surfing and netizen!
“Tell me Kabbu, where does your job fit in to all this?” Ullu asked.
“Cybersher is now sending e-mail all over Jungledom. And he is also encouraging the other animals to do the same. He is planning to open Cyber Cafes where the animals can sit and surf the Net as well as send Email. Now, tell me if everyone starts sending e-mail what are my boys and I supposed to do?”
“Wait, wait,” Ullu said. “Now what is Emale? I have heard of male and female, but I have never heard of an Emale.”
“No, no. e-mail stands for electronic mail. And the word is spelt as e-m-a-i-l, not E-m-a-l-e. It is used for sending letters from one computer to the other. It takes only seconds for the letter to go and hardly costs anything.”
“Sounds too good to be true.”
“It is true. That is why I am moping. And you know what my mail is now called? It has been nicknamed Snailmail, because it’s so slow when compared to e-mail!” Kabbu said in a low voice, and with a sad flutter of his wings, he flew away.
Ullu sat in deep thought. He was the seniormost citizen of Olango and was treated with a lot of respect by Cybersher. He decided to go and meet Cybersher and have a little chat with him.
He found Cybersher sitting in front of a computer, his paw on a small funny-looking thing that he kept moving up and down.
“What is this?” Ullu asked, pointing to the device.
The king looked up. “Hello, Ullu! How are you? This is a mouse.”
“Wha… a mouse? It hardly looks like one. And even though you are squeezing the life out of it I can’t hear the slightest whimper. Is it dead?”
“Ha, ha!” Cybersher roared with laughter. “It is not a real mouse, Ullu,” he said, wiping tears from his eyes, “it is a computer mouse!”
“Oh!” Ullu sat down and watched Cybersher surf the Net.
After some time, Ullu softly asked, “King, can you spare a few minutes for me? I have to discuss something very important.”
“What is it?” Cybersher asked without even looking up from the computer.
“It is about Kabbu, but I think it concerns all of us.”
Cybersher shut down his computer and, turning towards Ullu, snapped, “Okay, come out with it.”
Ullu repeated to Cybersher his conversation with Kabbu.
“Well, Kabbu’s concern is for real. In this age of high speed and efficiency, there is little scope for age-old methods. Why should I depend on Kabbu and his fleet who will take days to deliver a message when I can send it in seconds on the Internet? And, moreover, while e-mail is almost free, Snailmail costs money.”
“But, King, what happens now to Kabbu and his team?”
“They will have to develop some new skill. The Internet is the future and e-mail is its most useful feature. I want the entire jungle to march in tune with the times and not lag behind. Just for the sake of twenty-odd pigeons I can’t deny my jungle, Olango, the benefits of technology.”
“But King, new and old technology can live together, side by side, can they not? When the airlines were created, people said that would be the end of the railways. But even after almost a century, the railways continue to thrive. When TV was invented, everyone predicted the death of cinema. But both now coexist happily.”
“Whatever you might say, Ullu, e-mail will render Snailmail utterly useless. It is better that Kabbu and his team start looking for other jobs!” Cybersher dismissed Ullu with a wave of his hand and returned to his computer.
A year later, Kabbu was sitting with Ullu talking about the good old days.
“Ullu, I never considered myself as merely a carrier of letters. I was much more than just a messenger. I was almost a member of each and every family I visited. I clearly remember the day I carried a letter for Goru, the Gorilla. Since he couldn’t read, I read it out to him. It was from his son-in-law, informing him that he had become a grandfather. Goru jumped up beating his chest and yelling with joy! The sound of his excitement still echoes in my ears. Those days everyone used to keep waiting for me. And whenever I brought good tidings, I would get something special to eat. And when I brought bad news, the animals would pour their hearts out to me and feel relieved. Ullu, would you believe it, I also used to do matchmaking!”
“Of course. I am responsible for getting Biggy the elephant’s daughter married. Lambu, the Giraffe, too, was having a tough time finding a suitable match for his son, Danthal. After some scouting, I got Danthal a beautiful and talented bride from Pitara Jungle.” Kabbu looked up sadly at Ullu, “Now, all that is over. I have become useless, no one needs me any more.”
Just then they saw Bony, the Horse, running at full speed.
“What’s happened Bony, where are you going?” asked Ullu.
“I heard there’s been an accident near Cybersher’s cave. I am rushing there.”
“Accident! Come, let’s go,” Kabbu said and flew towards the cave along with Ullu.
They found Cybersher pacing up and down, a worried expression on his face.
“My son, Chhotu, has fallen from a rock and hurt his head very badly. He needs to be operated upon by Dr. Large, the best neurosurgeon in Jungledom, who is based in Pitara Jungle, quite far from here.”
“Why don’t you send him an e-mail?” suggested Ullu.
“I can’t. The entire computer network of our jungle crashed because of the thunderstorm and lightening from last night. I had sent for the computer engineer, but he said it would take him at least three days to repair the damage. And I can’t wait for three days. Chhotu needs immediate attention!”
“That’s no problem, king, I will go and get Dr. Large,” Kabbu offered.
“Really… w…will you go right away?” Cybersher asked, his eyes lighting up with hope.
“Of course! During my heyday, it would take me eight hours to fly to Pitara. I would fly for eight hours, rest for four, collect all the mail and fly back, all in a span of around twenty hours. But king, this is an emergency! Our Chhotu’s life is at stake. I’ll try to get Dr. Large in half the time,” Kabbu said, and without waiting for the King’s response, he flew off on his mission.
Cybersher and his well-wishers spent the time looking at their watches and keeping an eye on the condition of the cub. With each passing hour, the wails of Sherni grew louder as she watched her cub’s life slowly ebb away.
Eight hours later, they heard a flutter of wings.
Cybersher looked up. Kabbu was flying towards them looking dirty, tired and sweaty.
“Wha…what happened? Where is Dr. Large?” Cybersher asked.
Kabbu pointed in the direction in which he had come and collapsed on the ground. Cybersher looked up. Dr. Large was approaching, his medical kit clutched firmly in his strong trunk.
An hour later, Dr. Large came out wiping his hands. Cybersher and Sherni rushed forward, their faces anxious.
“There is nothing to worry about. The cub is safe. Another hour’s delay would have proved fatal. You should thank your postman, Kabbu. I think he has done a fantastic job. I was somewhere in the middle of Pitara Jungle attending to a patient when he landed in front of me. He didn’t allow me to waste even a minute. I told him, ‘You have just come after such a long and tiring journey. Rest for a couple of hours and then we’ll go’. But he just wouldn’t listen. ‘No, doctor, a young life is at stake. Even a moment’s delay can prove costly’, he said. King, you should really be grateful to him for saving your son’s life.”
Later, Cybersher told Kabbu, “My dear friend, I don’t know how to thank you for what you have done for me and my family. Even though you lost your job because of my decision, instead of feeling angry you paid me back by saving my son’s life. You have proved once and for all that though technology has made life easier and more fun in many ways, we can’t always rely on it. The only thing we can rely on is the will power and the spirit of creatures like you! And you, not technology, are the hero of the day!”