Good morning, Kathmandu! Itâ€™s seven a.m. a quarter century from now, on perhaps a chilly January 1 in the year 2030. Kathmandu has grown and its population has jumped by over 50 per cent. Despite this explosion in numbers, the roadways look benign. To an average commuter like me, getting to the downtown office at 9:30 a.m. becomes far less risky and less of a hassle as a push on the button can work wonders.
The Outer Ring Road has taken shape amidst prolonged vacillation and confusion in political circles. More in the offing, the highways and the ring roads are equipped with GPS technology, which gives me details of the road movements even before I embark on the journey.
Turn the ignition key on and a small GPS receiver and a built-in microprocessor installed in the vintage model of my car shows me the exact location in a GIS mapping. A press on the radio receiver and there I get the latest info on the state of the road Iâ€™m going to hit - â€œSector 24 Ring Road, Lane 1 is blocked by a protest march by environmental groups heading east towards the PMâ€™s Office. Lane 2 is being monopolised by two big bulls just astray from the Pashupatinath area in search of a warm summer heat. So please take Lane 3.â€ Huh! What a luxury to a Kathmanduite! Thank God my problem as a commuter is now not real.
Not far from the capital, Banepa has become a manufacturing hub of microelectronics and silicon chips made for GPS receivers. Thanks to the outsourcing strategy! Even older cars are refurbished with GPS and the tempo and taxi-wallahs are rejoicing in this latest tech boom. Though most of the cars plying on the roads fit the international emission mark, a boom in the sales of private cars and increased urbanisation brought about by the Outer Ring Road have left the dangerous levels of air pollution unchanged. However, the fleet owners and the freight forwarders are doing brisk business. The public, too, are getting a taste of an economic boom triggered by safe transport and enormous time-savings.
While still ambling along on Kathmanduâ€™s roadways of 2030, I suddenly get a shrill in my ears. Oh! My alarm clock. And with it I am brought to an abrupt halt in my reveries. The sight of the same dusty ride, the same snail-paced progress on congested roadways, careless and chaotic traffic and unwanted processions of all hues â€” all these on my way to office make me sick again. Come soon 2030 and I slip back into my blanket trying to recapture the daydream.