Why are you looking so sad?” asked Ullu, the wise old owl to Kabbu, the white pigeon.
“You would also 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 forest in Jungledom. 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 the entire jungledom. The Department had won several awards for the quality and the efficiency of its service.
“Who told you, 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 human have designed to ensnare the animals of our jungle?” Ullu hazarded a guess.
“Ha! You are supposed to be wise but your wisdom seems to be all outdated. To put it simply 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 else via the internet. Using it we can also access every imaginable piece of information. It has already come to Olango in a big way. Our King Cybersher has the latest computer with an internet connection. The whole day he spends 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, Chotu’s homework. The last straw was the other day when Cybersher’s mother-in-law came for a visit. Do you know what he did? He refused to even acknowledge her existence.”
“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. All this jargon was getting too much for him. “But tell me Kabbu where does your job come into all this?”
“Cybershare is now sending Email 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 Email what are me and my boys supposed to do?”
“Wait, wait,” Ullu said. “Now what is Email? I have heard of male and female, but I have never heard of an Emale. Is it another gender?”
“No, no. Email 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 seconds to go and hardly costs anything.”
“Sounds to 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,” Kabbu said in a low voice and with a sad flutter of his wings flew away.
Ullu sat in deep thought. He was the senior most citizen of Olango and was treated with a lot of respect by Cybersher. He decided to go and meet Cybersher and have a small chat with him.
He found Cybersher sitting in front of a computer, his paw on a small funny looking thing which he kept moving up and down and jabbing at intervals?
“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 its life out it is not uttering even the slightest whimper. Is it dead?”
“Ha, ha!” roared Cybersher. It is not a live 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 gently asked, “King, can you spare a few minutes for me? I have to discus 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 related his conversation with Kabbu.
“Well, Kabbu’s apprehension is quite right. In this age of high speed and efficiency there is little scope for age old methods. When I can send a message in seconds why should I depend on Kabbu and his fleet who will take days. And moreover, while Email is almost free Snailmail costs money.”
“But King then what will happen to Kabbu and his team?”
“They will have to develop some new skill. The internet is the medium of tomorrow and Email 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 Olango the benefits of technology.”
“But King, the new and old technology can co-exist simultaneously can it not? When the air lines came people said this is the end of the railways. But even after almost a century the railways continue to thrive. When TV came everyone predicted the doom of Cinema. But both are co-existing happily.”
“Whatever you might say Ullu, Email will render Snailmail utterly useless. It is better Kabbu and his men start looking for alternative jobs,” Cybersher said dismissing Ullu with a wave of his hand and turning 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. 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 sounds of his happiness are still echoing 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 heart out to me and feel relieved. I would console them and give them advice. 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 at Ullu - “Now all that is gone. I have become useless, no one needs me any more.”
Just then they saw Bony the Horse running at full speed.
“What happened Bony where are you going?” asked Ullu.
“I came to know there has been an accident near Cybersher’s cave. I am rushing there.”
“Accident! Come let’s go,” Kabbu said and along with Ullu flew towards the cave.
They found Cybersher pacing up and down a worried expression on his face.
“My son Chotu has fallen from a rock and hurt his head very badly. He needs to operated upon by Dr. Sharp, the best neurosurgeon in Jungledom, who is based in Pitara Jungle quite far from here.”
“Why don’t you send him an Email?” suggested Ullu.
“I can’t. In the heavy lightening which occurred last evening the entire computer network of our jungle crashed. 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. Chotu needs immediate attention.”
“That’s no problem King I will go and get Dr. Sharp,” Kabbu said.
“Really.....w...will you go right away?” Cybersher asked his eyes lighting up with hope.
“Of course. During my heydays 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. Btu King this is an emergency. Our Chotu’s life is at stake. I’ll try to get Dr. Sharp in half the time,” Kabbu said and without waiting for the King’s response flew off on his mission.
Cybersher and his well wishers spent the time looking at their watches and monitoring 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. Sharp?” Cybersher asked.
Kabbu pointed in the direction in which he had come and collapsed on the ground.
Cybersher looked up. Dr. Sharp was approaching with his medical kit clutched in his strong beak.
An hour later, Dr. Sharp came out wiping his sharp claws. Cybersher and Sherni rushed forward, their faces anxious.
“There is nothing toe worry. The child is safe. Another hour’s delay would have proved fatal. You should thank your postman. I think he has done a fantastic job. I was somewhere in the middle of Pitara 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. Take 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’. 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 harbouring hatred and anger towards me, you paid me back by saving my son’s life. You have proved once and for all that though technology might appear to be invincible it is the will power and indomitable spirit of creatures like you which is the ultimate winner.”