Nina’s mother called out, “Nina, come to the balcony.” There was no reply. Nina had been in her room since the morning, playing computer games and chatting. Mummy was annoyed. So was Papa. Lately, Nina was always stuck to the computer desk.
Before Nina’s room had a computer, they used to spend their evenings playing carrom or snakes and ladders. These days, Nina only played games that could be played on the computer.
“Papa, people don’t play these old games anymore,” she said.
Papa frowned. He wondered when Nina would want to play with human beings again. Mummy and he played with cards.
“Have you finished your homework?” Her mother asked. Nina nodded her head, her eyes staring into the screen. She was busy chatting with two friends and watching her favourite singer sing.
Mummy asked, “Is your next exam on Friday?” Nina did not hear. She asked the question again. Still no answer.
“Nina!” Mummy was upset. Nina turned around in her chair. She stopped the music.
“Yes, Mummy?” Her mother asked about the exam. It was on Friday — just after two days. Nina said she was ready.
Friday came. Mummy had not seen Nina studying. Once, Nina was looking at the computer while her textbook sat open in her lap. “The computer won’t run away, Nina. Study for your test,” Papa told her.
After the test, Nina did not talk to her parents until they asked her how she had done. “It wasn’t easy,” she said, looking at the floor.
The results were announced. Nina had done poorly. Mummy and Papa were not surprised. They knew that Nina had spent all her time on the computer, instead of studying her lessons.
“From now on, the computer will stay turned off,” they said.
Nina started to cry. But she also knew that she deserved it. “What will I do then?” she asked them.
“Finish your homework first. And then you’ll find lots of things to do,” said Papa. “You can read books, draw pictures, play badminton outside with your friends,” Mummy said. Nina did not remember doing these things.
From that afternoon, the computer stayed off. Nina went to the chair. The machine was unplugged. She felt horrible. She did her homework. She studied her lessons for a long time. Then she found a book on her bed. It was about letters.
Papa wanted Nina to write letters to her grandparents. “They don’t have email,” he said.
Nina found this funny.
She did not find it that funny after she finished reading the book. “Mummy, did you know that people could only send each other really slow letters in the old days?” Nina’s eyes were wide.
Suddenly, Nina found letters more interesting than computer games and chats. She wrote to her grandparents, telling them about the school play. She also told them about baking cakes with Mummy. Once she started to write, line after line covered the paper. She gave the letter to her father. He showed her what to write on the envelope and walked her to the post office to make sure she could get a stamp and send the letter. Nina loved the post office.
“Papa, do letters go all over India from here?”
“Yes. They go to people all over the world,” he said. Nina had an idea.
There was another exam that week. Nina read and read her textbook. She did well. When she returned, her parents wanted to let her use the computer again but Nina had other plans.
“I have to write a letter,” she explained. She was already writing to her friend Dia, who had moved to England.
“I thought you send emails to each other?” Her father was confused.
“I think I like letters more, Papa,” Nina said, without looking up.
First published in TeleKids (An ABP Group publication)