1 – In a time and place
In a time and place whose technology was just a little bit more advanced than ours, there existed a schoolboy named Salm. The past year, on his 15th birthday, his father had given him his own personal agent on the Net. Soon everyone will have his own software agent, his father proudly told him then, but for now, you are one of the privileged few who can afford this. Make good use of it, son.
His father was a busy man as was the tendency of techno-fathers during this period and was away from home for most of the time, notwithstanding the Office Wall in their reading room. His father would always tell him: Salm, the world is rapidly shrinking into a thumb-size digital camera. If you do not want to be sucked in, you will have to step out and grab other people’s hands. His father’s thinking might have been largely affected by the fact that his father worked as a network administrator for a long time before his company recognized his abilities to connect people to people and people to information, and made him an information integrator for their global clients. The only time Salm recalled his father having stayed a full three months with them at home was a long time back, when Salm’s father installed the Office Wall in the house, which made his mother happy because she thought that that should keep her husband from traveling too much. But his father went back to his hectic travel habits when the initial magic of the Wall had worn off.
Of course there were side benefits to all these traveling. Every now and then, Salm and his mother would go along on a trip, which was why Salm’s mother did not really object to his father’s work. In some ways, Salm understood his father’s philosophy about grabbing other peoples’ hands, although he did not really enjoy the trips as much as his mother did. The world was at once both big and small, and it seemed that the only reassuring perspective during these moments of realization was when one was shaking the hand of the person in front of him and staring at his smiling face.
The company of men is like the notes on the musical staff, his father would say. One single note played on the piano is simply a sound. That note played repeatedly becomes a noise. But if you have a variety of notes on the staff, then it can become a musical masterpiece.
Other parts, here:
© Said Sadain, Jr. 1999
[“Babel Rising” first saw print in Bugs and Bytes, In Bigger Prints, a book written and desktop-published by Said Sadain, Jr., Manila, 1999, and is anthologized in The Many Ways of Being Muslim: Fiction by Muslim Filipinos, edited by Coeli Barry (Ithaca, US: Cornell University Press, Southeast Asia Program Publications, 2008 / Manila, Philippines: Anvil Publishing, Inc, 2008)]