Bansi Lal lived in Mumbai, India's largest metropolis. An urban agglomeration with 60 million people, the area housed more people than an average-size country. Only Tokyo, New York and Beijing had more people. And Mumbai was growing the fastest of them all, being the most tropical of the lot.
Bansi Lal worked as a news presenter: holographic images of him were beamed into the living rooms of several Indians while they had their breakfast. He spoke in a mix of English, Hindi and Tamil - a mix quite common in India at this point of time. He would present the news with confidence and passion. Looking at him, you would understand why he was India's highest paid anchor.
He had gained popularity in the Sri Lankan war, braving the supersonic bullets to get his spectators the story. It is said that many a maiden's heart was beating faster when he was doing this bit of field reporting. He had won India's heart thus. And the network gave him prime time breakfast news.
Today was a quite a good day, as far as mishaps were concerned. A hover-car had collided with a train, killing three - and that was about it. Bansi sailed through the story with aplomb. His was a cheerful heart today: only three accidental deaths in a city of 60 million per day was something everyone could live with.
Mumbai now was a town of hope. A town of development. A town of tomorrow. A town with a greater future than the rest of the world. It had more sunlight than the great cities of the United States, Europe, China and Japan. It had more skilled manpower than the sunny desert cities of the middle east and the vast expanses down under. Its main rivals were other Indian towns (especially Chennai and Hyderabad), Mediterranean towns of Madrid and Los Angeles. Mumbai had expanded by 2040 to cover what was once the metropolis of Pune, the town of Aurangabad - and as far north as Daman.
Something remarkable had occurred over time. Something that changed the face of the planet in the preceding 30 years. Something that helped the planet avert the energy crisis and tide through global warming. Solar energy.
perseverant research had been happening at the academic level - throughout the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century. The best brains in the world were working on solar cells; on harnessing solar energy for the future. Photovoltaics were always a "promising" technology. They were never economical.
Never economical, until that fateful day that fuel prices hit $140 a barrel (2005 dollars). Gradually solar photovoltaic cells started disappearing from store racks. More started being manufactured. Advertisements were being played on local and national television. India started becoming a "solar" country. The grid would supply power only at night or on rainy days using coal power.
It was ironically that disease that had blighted humanity since times immemorial - religion - that had brought forth the current prosperity. Hatred between two prominent religions in the world resulted in an oil crisis. This also resulted in a hectic funding of scientific research in solar energy. Indian universities focused on an innocuous sounding plant called "Jathropha" which was instrumental in the production of bio-diesel.
Jathropha was taken to en-masse by the farmers. This had a multi-pronged effect. Since the average farmer started to earn more, only a few farmers were left who were willing to grow food crops. This resulted in the use of more efficient farming methods. Yields in India started being comparable to the rest of the developed world. And the other farmers formed a vital link in the supply chain of India's new fuel: solar bio diesel.
And almost overnight, India was transformed from a fledgling, energy hungry third world country to a sophisticated self-sufficient democracy. Development started occurring at a scorching pace.
But this is not the story of Mumbai. Or India. It is the story of Bansi Lal. And it is as much a story of romance as it is a story of hope. A hope for a better future.