When they installed the ultra-high-power microwave link that connected their atoll with the rest of the country, the people of the atoll celebrated.
Dignitaries from neighboring islands came over with good wishes and token gifts. Island competed with island to see who could come up with the best community feast or the most memorable bandiya dancing. Functions were held, speeches were made, and commemorative certificates were handed out to everybody who had had a direct role to play in the erection of the massive steel tower that carried the antennas. Mention was made of the brand new local telephone network, access to the information highway, e-commerce, leap-frogged development, and even Bill Gates and Ted Turner.
As development leaped forward in great leaps and bounds, many young people who had secretly given up all hope of ever settling down in their atoll started coming back, especially when it was announced that new issuing of land was under way. Among these was Faisal Ahmed Kaleyfaan, a young entrepreneur who had a burgeoning vegetable business in Male’. He considered it a good omen when the plot of land allocated to him was right beside the enclosure that had recently been built around the massive steel tower that carried the antennas that gave the atoll its brand new local telephone network, soon-to-be-achieved access to the information highway, and possibly e-commerce.
Having built a sumptuous villa on his lot within a record six months, Faisal installed his wife of two years in it and gave in to her regular plea of starting a family that would proudly bear the noble Kaleyfaan name. Maryam took to the house and her new responsibilities of proud house owner like the proverbial duck to water. She soon gave the house a warm, lived-in look with just the right furniture and bric-a-brac. She started a garden in which roses bloomed alongside dahlias and hibiscus. She also called Faisal, now in Male’ attending to his vegetables, and gave him the good news that a new Kaleyfaan might be on the way in just under eight months. Faisal sent her a brand new mobile phone and the latest personal computer out of the house of IBM as token gifts. Maryam held a community feast.
One day, when Maryam was three months on the way to happy motherhood, she had a call from an organization that called itself the Asian Comrades of the Environment. They wanted to find out if Madame Kaleyfaanu would be kind enough to grant them an appointment. Assuming that they wanted to talk to her about the two pet turtles she kept in the unused swimming pool they had in their yard, she invited them to come over for tea. When Mr. San, Mr. Kyoshi and Mr. Klugemann arrived, she found out that they had come to warn her about the possible negative side effects of living right under a set of ultra-high-power microwave antennas. Maryam listened to them politely, offered them senbei and green tea, and let it go at that.
Late in December, Faisal finally left Male’ to go and be with his beloved wife as she gave birth to their first-born.
It was well past midnight when the powerboat that he had hired for the journey tied up at the jetty on his island. As Faisal jumped off, the Katheeb of the island, who was smoking his last bidi for the night on the communal holhu ashi seating area on the waterfront came hurrying up to meet him. “As-salaamu-alaikum, Faisal! Well-timed as usual, eh?”
“Wa-alaikum-us-salaam, Katheeb Bey! Didn’t expect to see you here at this time of the night.” Faisal had known the Katheeb since childhood, “What is this about good timing?”
“Oh, I thought Maryam Kokko would have called you on her mobile phone. Majida, our newly trained midwife, has just been called to your house. I think Maryam Kokko is in labor.” The Katheeb was proud to be the bearer of the good news, “Let us walk together.”
If what passed for a walk for the expectant father and his old family friend was really a slow jog, there was hardly anyone on the roads at that time to bear witness. It did not take them a second longer than four minutes to reach the beautiful villa that would soon ring with the sweet cries of a welcome baby son. However, as they reached the front door of the house, Faisal instinctively knew that something was very wrong. There was something about the house that did not feel right. Something that should have been there, but was not, began bothering him. A cold fear began to gnaw at his guts.
And that was when they came out and told him. His wife had just given birth to stillborn baby boy. A deformed, stillborn baby boy.
As the first tears came into his eyes, Faisal stood beside the roses, the dahlias and the hibiscus and looked up at the sky. Almost directly overhead and slightly to the east, the warning light on the steel tower carrying the ultra-high-power microwave antennas flashed like an angry red star in the dead silence of the night.