Of course, the president will ride an elephant and so will the prime minister. For the fun of it, imagine our president, prime minister and other dignitaries riding on a fully decorated hauda: a seat fastened on the back of an elephant.
By Usha Pokharel
The other day, as I was walking past Lagankhel, I saw a number of vehicles waiting in queue for petrol and diesel in front of a gas station. There were motorbikes, cars and jeeps, huge trucks, tippers and buses waiting for their turn. The line stretching from Nepal Army’s petrol station was so long that it had almost reached the end of Satdobato junction. This long queue inspired some introspection. First I thought about the motorbikes which outnumbered all the other vehicles in the line. “What if we never received petroleum for transportation and electricity was a thing of the past? What would life be like?” I asked myself.
Motorbikes will go out of sight. Motorbike does not have a long history in Nepali roads. Motor scooters had become popular only in the 1960s. So bikers will, most likely, go back to using regular bikes—without engine. “What about the people who use cars?” One may ask. Well, Victoria coaches drawn by horses will become a new status symbol, one more time. After all they were very popular during the 1700s.
Coaches were used for long-distance travel in those days. It would take more than 5 days to reach Pokhara, so what? They would stop at places, passengers would get on or off, and teams of horses would be replaced to give a break to the tired beasts and to maintain the speed at an average of about 11 kilometers per hour. Special coaches would even make twenty-five kilometers per day.
They would make for a “good day´s travel.” Let us not forget elephant ride. Elephant riding will become very prestigious as only the only rich will be able to keep elephants. Of course, the president will ride an elephant and so will the prime minister. For the fun of it, imagine our president, prime minister and other dignitaries riding on a fully decorated hauda: a seat fastened on the back of an elephant. The onlookers will grace horse-drawn buggies with wonder. With all such changes, public transportation system will get a completely different look.
As regards buses, they will be horse-driven too. I am not kidding. In the 17th century (1662 to be precise) Blaise Pascal invented the first public bus (horse-drawn), regular route, schedule and fare system. It will be much easier for us because we already have all those in place. Horses will be greater in demand, as each household will want to have a horse just like having a car at home now. Cheap horse-drawn carriages and rickshaws will once again become the talk of the town. And they will replace the tempos and mini buses. Elephants will be used as heavy transport vehicles; they will replace the tippers and trucks. Or they could pull tippers and trucks.
Our municipality will have to take extra measures to keep the city clean and the government will have found a new method to solve manure shortage. Apart from horses, the donkeys will find their places, as people who cannot afford horses will have carriages drawn by donkeys to get their children to schools. Mini-horse-drawn carriages will replace Nano. Taxis will be replaced by horses-on-rent with clock driven meters. As for the fare, it will depend on how long it takes you to get from one place to another. Distance will matter little. The petrol pumps will be replaced by horse-feeding centers. With horse as new transport, marriage will become even more colorful as the horses and palanquins will be more colorfully decorated.
The janti will come on horseback and the bride will be taken to her in-law’s home in palanquins lifted by kahars, palanquin carriers. Being a kahar will be as good a profession as that of modern day driver. Kahars will be paid better for they will work as security persons too. A person will then need a martial art certificate to get the job of a kahar. Those who cannot afford a palanquin will use a cheaper means: Chariots. Chariots will be used in to taking away brides to their in-laws’ homes. This will not be a new thing though. Thousands of years ago the people in Egypt and Greece would ride chariots.
Let us imagine Nepal in this new setting. There will be floods of tourists coming in to see a nation going backwards in time when the whole world is moving forward. Nepal will make headlines in the world newspapers: “Nepal- a nation going backwards in time.” Nepal will become a number one tourist destination. Hotels will run out of rooms and bed and breakfast will be a common name for every household in the valley.
The tourists will be curious to know how we made it possible, how we could manage to preserve the old culture without going forward so far as transportation is concerned. Of course no one will ever remember the reality of the situation that brought the country to this state. So watch out, this might be the right time to remember that nice, sturdy horse that your grandparents had sold. It is just possible that the person who bought it still has its offspring. May be you should hurry and make a booking. Who knows when you might need it! The indications are already there: The government is widening the roads.
Soon enough we will have roads to accommodate horses. That will be the start of moving backwards in time. So next time, there is subsidy in budget announcement, go ahead and buy a horse for yourself because you will be using it quite soon. Otherwise you might find yourself singing: Hatti, ghodapalki, jai kanhaiyalalki (elephants, horses and palanquins, praise be to Lord Krishna).
[The same article was published in Republica, the English daily, in Kathmandu.]
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Nepali Samaj UK’s editorial policy.