The newly married Gora Trivedi had a special plan for the first weekend after her marriage. Sunday evening she’d be chilling out on Race Course, the must-visit Sunday spot for Rajkotians. Of course, her plan for chilling out was a tad different – for an hour in the evening, she’d stand with a placard that loudly said, “No Horn Please!”.
Professor, trained lawyer, public speaker, writer. And of course social activist. That’s Prof Dr. Gora Trivedi.
She’s made a mission to make people honk a lot less and turn our cities a great deal more peaceful. She’s the person who started the No Horn Movement.
I ask her why, of all things, she chose the No Horn Movement (NHM).
Like many a noble endeavor, hers has a simple objective: to instill a civic sense in fellow Indians.
“If you think something’s not right, go ahead and try and improve it. What’s the point cribbing all the time?”
The start of No Horn Movement
I first heard of the NHM about a year back. One of those actions by a citizen fuelled by one of those sudden, let’s do something feelings that are born on Saturday evenings and die on Sunday mornings, I thought. The novel, yes. Lasting, no way, I told myself and promptly put it out of my mind.
Thankfully, Gora Trivedi had a different idea.
The NHM was kicked off on 23 August 2015, but most certainly not on a fleeting feeling. For quite some time, she had been feeling a little uneasy – actually irate might be the word I’m looking for – by the apparent thoughtlessness of drivers who kept honking, honking, honking all through the roads of Rajkot (and elsewhere too, as she soon found out).
Drivers of bikes, auto-rickshaws, cars, vans and pretty much everything else that carried a horn had had that irrepressible urge: have a horn, will honk. Blowing a horn became a rite of passage of sorts.
Apart from the feeling of exasperation that unnecessary honking triggered in everyone around, needless blowing of horns also contributed to sound pollution as if there wasn’t enough of it around.
To Trivedi, of course, it also indicated a mildly palpable but a serious lack of civic sense.
“A horn is an emergency when there’s no other recourse. For requesting an overtake, for indicating a turn, for drawing someone’s attention …. a simple blink of light more than suffices,” she says.
But instead of cribbing about it like others, she decided to take action – some regular action that would be ongoing so that it kept reminding people.
The best part is that this movement against noise was and remains completely silent. Trivedi and her team did not take out processions on roads to raise awareness, they did not sit on dharnas at known public places, they did not go around to educational institutions to deliver lectures and tell themselves their job was done.
They chose the most difficult route. They took up conveying the message in absolute silence.
So they stood at Race-Course crossroads on that Sunday of August, with placards that carried a simple, short but a very direct message: No Horn Please.
No slogans, no stopping of vehicles, no banners proclaiming who they were. About 38 of them stood for an hour with blaring placards that silently reminded motorists to avoid honking.
I ask her whether she was sure the movement would continue beyond the first day. She, in her characteristic, no-nonsense manner replies, “I don’t cow down easily. I’m tough and perseverant, so I was prepared for a long and tiring task. And, far from being tired, I’m energized by the support the movement has garnered.”
And what’s the tough part, I think aloud.
“Raising awareness that this is not something trivial.” She explains.
“I strongly feel this can have long-term benefits, in multiple areas. If people develop a civic sense, they will act a lot more responsibly everywhere. It can bring about a real change, if we develop the civic sense to realize that, for instance, public property needs to be preserved, needs to be respected and needs to be taken care of. That’s because it’s built on an honest taxpayer’s money, my money, your money.”
She catches her breath and continues, “And honestly, it’s all because I love my country. If I truly love my country I must do something for it, not just sit back and lament.”
It takes tremendous commitment. It’s not a once-in-a-blue-moon event, it’s an appointment Trivedi and her team haven’t broken.
Her team and she have spent most Sunday evenings in the past 18 months standing at crossroads with placards. Hanging out with friends, spending time with family, catching up on reading, going to the movies, weekend vacations, enjoying social get-togethers… nothing’s come between this team and their NHM campaigning.
If nothing else, it’s this sheer perseverance that’s advancing this cause.
People, groups, media and the local authorities – each dimension of the society is slowly but surely taking note of the powerful movement this petite lady initiated. While to some it looked like a fad when it began, today the city corporation and the traffic police not only acknowledge the movement; they fully appreciate and wholeheartedly support the movement.
A fortnight back, this movement was flagged off in Ahmedabad and Baroda; I understand Surat may be next on the list.
Occasionally, people offer “suggestions” on where she should be focusing herself on: “Hey, why waste your energy on something that’s relatively minor? I mean, why aren’t you into something more serious, like female feticide, drug abuse, human trafficking, literacy drives, water scarcity… there’s so much to do!”
She finds this bemusing and insensitive, in equal measures: why are you trying to dissuade something that’s evidently constructive? But she handles it tactfully.
“To such people, I offer help: ‘Hey dude, that sounds cool. Why don’t you start something like that yourself? My team and I will come around and help.’ Ha ha.” she smiles, “I don’t like being rude, but I drive the message home – if you aren’t doing anything yourself, at least don’t discourage people who are striving to bring about a positive change.”
That’s a pretty powerful way to ward off detractors. Or should we say, silence them?
Prof Dr. Gora Trivedi has been felicitated by R K University and Rajkot Municipal Corporation, amongst others, for a variety of services. Recently, she co-founded the Amal Trust (Amal means the execution of work) to ensure similar activities spread out. She is also the writer of the book The Civic Code which discusses a variety of small things all common citizens can take up to make India a better society, a better nation. To know more about her activities and support or associate with the movement, you can get in touch with her on Facebook, where she is quite active.
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