So I went to a protest a week ago - a human chain of citizens objecting to a monstrously expensive steel flyover that would kill over 800 trees and scar our Garden City forever. The organisers suggested we carry signs that simply stated: No.
But somewhere in my head, that old copywriter lurks, and these four words popped into my head. I painted them on a sign, and off I went.
THOU SHALT NOT STEEL.
I knew it was a good slogan, but I never expected the response I got. People up and down the chain were giving me the thumbs up, telling me they loved it. The media loved it too - two newspapers used it as part of their headlines, and a few others posted pictures of my sign and me. As an added bonus, the Economic Times described me as "a woman in her thirties" (I'm 51). A few days later, at a public referendum, the historian and author Ramachandra Guha ended his speech with it, praising it as the most brilliant, succinct and moving critique of the flyover issue. Lovely, he called it.
Praise and compliments are great. As is the knowledge that my words resonated with so many people. But the best thing these four words did for me, was to jolt me out of my apathy. They reminded me that I am a writer (who does not write much any more). They reminded me that I had a talent for words that can get people's attention, communicate and convince, and inspire change. They reminded me that 14 years I ago, I left a fun and financially delicious career in advertising because I wanted to use that talent to sell more than luxury cars and fizzy drinks.
So today, along with the #SteelFlyoverBeda protesters, who have been accused of "waking up too late" on the flyover issue, I'm awake too, with that voice in my head repeating clear: thou shalt write.