ONCE you cross dozens of huge farmhouses in South Delhis Green Avenue,you hit a dead end. Actually,the last plot is a venue for quite a few beginnings. Between taking care of rescued homeless people and dogs,goats and cows in temporary sheds,44-year-old Ravi Kalra has initiated a quiet revolution of sorts from here.
Irked with the incessant honking of private and commercial vehicles in the capital,Kalra,a Taekwondo instructor and immigration consultant,saved up money to print as many as five lakh Do Not Honk stickers. This was in 2008. Those stickers,he admits,were randomly and arbitrarily pasted on many vehicles in Delhi and even distributed to crowds at the railway station so that passengers could paste them wherever they wanted to.
Gradually,he moved from the simple slogans to more aggressive ones such as Even a dog doesnt bark without a reason and Honking is like an itch. Friends advised that I refrain from offensive slogans but I was ready to face the consequences. My only aim was to grab eyeballs and get people talking, he says. As it is,my martial arts training would have come in handy in case someone took offence, he says,not so jokingly.
The maverick sound warrior even annoyed his wife due to his over-indulgence in the cause in terms of time and money. He says she left him a few years ago along with their two young children. The two young models on the no-honking posters are Kalras children. My Barbie doll was so averse to getting a picture clicked,but she volunteered to model for my posters,and did it so effortlessly, he says,talking fondly about his daughter whom he has not seen for four years now.
In the course of my profession,I got to visit no less than 40 countries. Its so peaceful on the streets anywhere else but as soon as one lands in India,the shrillness gets to you. I am sure we are losing a lot of tourism revenue on account of noise pollution, he says,adding,Outside India,honking signals an emergency situation. No one would ever honk in normal circumstances.
The 44-year-old says,If ever there was a noise pollution index,India would probably rank first. We are worse than Africa and Afghanistan. Pakistan seems to be as noisy,according to those who have been there.
Kalra has given up commercial interests and is devoted to The Earth Saviours Foundation,where more than 75 mentally challenged people,senior citizens and destitute women are being taken care of,apart from a small herd of stray animals. The walls of his office are lined with pictures of the foundations work and a large number of appreciation letters from retired judges,senior police officers,citizens and even foreign nationals and diplomats.
There is no fixed source of income,nor do we get any government aid. But we have been able to pull through so far,even though I am always worried about the salary of my 38-odd staff members, Kalra says. Most donations comes from middle-class families but nothing from this lane,which is full of people with unimaginable wealth, he says. In spite of constraints,there is no shortage of new posters and stickers,and enthusiasm. We are soon going to start a service where people from any part of the country can put in a request for Do Not Honk posters and stickers,and those will be despatched to them free of cost, he says.
On the premises,the staff and residents are busy creating new slogans for posters to be pasted at hospitals and near schools.
The Supreme Court has mandated schools,hospitals,traffic signals and residential areas as no-honking zones in India but ironically,that is where maximum honking happens, he says.
Like many of us,Kalra has never been able to decipher the logic behind back-gear horns and the Horn Please slogan behind the trucks.
A few months ago,we smeared black paint on the Horn Please panels on the trucks that passed through the Gurgaon Expressway toll gate. Although it annoyed many and some altercations ensued,but as long as the message spreads it doesnt matter, he adds.
He also practises what he preaches. I have been driving for 20 years now and I have never honked. And that has neither delayed me nor have I ever met with an accident. You drive using your hands,feet,eyes and brain a horn is just not required, he says.
Hoping that his effort of five years has been fruitful to some extent and dreaming of a day when India can be rid of noise pollution owing to unnecessary honking,Kalra is all set to take cars by the horns till then.