Gauri was a very unique woman in Karnataka’s history and I am saying this based on my interaction with her for eighteen years. The questions that were being raised about the fate of Lankesh Patrike after Lankesh’s death were answered in just two days. Gauri returned from Delhi to take up the responsibilities as an editor of the Patrike. I hesitated talking to her at first, but then I was reminded of what Lankesh had told us. He had asked us to speak without feeling ashamed of the rural dialects that we spoke in.
I do not know if Gauri had already read my columns, but she considered me to be special. She would have very casual conversations with me. Lankesh Patrike was facing various difficulties, and Gauri invested all of her energy in bringing back the Patrike on track. Some were hesitant to face her because of her straightforward approach. Gauri had designed her own ways and her ways were quite different from the literary and political framework that her father had set up for the Patrike. Around the same time, I got a call from a landline number. When I answered the call and asked who was speaking she said, ‘It is me, your mother’. The voice carrying so much of authority had made a very strong impact over me and I even had introduced her to all of my relatives.
The first place I took Gauri to was to my wife’s maternal family in Cholasandra, close to Belluru cross. That day was ooru habba (The festival of village) and as per the norms, no one cooks non-vegetarian food in their homes. Sayed Gausanna from Belluru had got some non-vegetarian food with him. We sat in the cowshed and began our small party. Neighbours were shocked to see Gauri lighting a cigarette. Impressed with Gauri, my aunt had even said, “If we have daughters like this, what do we want sons for?” Gauri had gifted my aunt a shawl when she was about to return. My aunt did not let go of that shawl till her last days; she would tell everyone, “Gauri gave it to me asking me to use it.”
I took Gauri to my home in my village too. The house there did not have a toilet. We got it constructed in a hurry and I took her home. H.T. Krishnappa, an ex-minister and a genuine politician also joined us in my home. He had briefed the political history of half a century of Karnataka to her. It was midnight by then. He had told me that he had underestimated Gauri and he had found Gauri to be stronger than Lankesh. Gauri drove him back and dropped him at his home in Nagamangala.
I slowly learnt about Gauri. She was fearless. She never believed in any god and did not even think about her religion and caste. She was very innocent, just like a child, and hence, she would not mind going anywhere, meeting anyone and dining with anyone. She would even visit those who had fallen out with her father. She had even managed to impress Tejaswi, and had also interviewed him. She would even enquire the well being of those who had never agreed with her. Gauri strongly believed that, he who wishes well for every living thing is a true sharana.
I used to face difficulty in finding an accommodation whenever I was in Bengaluru. Gauri had told me to feel free to stay at her place instead. She had a vacant room in her home. She would make the bed and would say “bye” and leave the room only after I was ready to sleep; and now I am left only with these memories.
It is said that, the one who does not fear death is the happiest one. Gauri was exactly like that. We always spent time laughing and joking about everything. I would tell her every joke that I knew and make her laugh. The last thing that I said which had made her laugh was this: She had written about Kanhaiya and Rohith and had addressed them as her children. I went to her chamber and said, “Did you not see any of us, who are around you right here? You better publish a picture with me and declare that I am your brother-in-law”.
There have been times when I used to look for jokes just to make her laugh. I used to do the same with her father. Now both of them are just a memory.
A few women have rented a small house in Nayandalli in Bengaluru and together they live in it. They live by themselves. Some of them are widows and some are dumped by their husbands. I had taken Gauri to this house. She was really impressed after seeing how happily these women lived. Gauri visited these women a couple of times after her first visit. The last time she was there, she had promised them that she would visit them again. She was supposed to be chairing a public meeting organised by the women living in the gallis of Nayandalli on the 14 September 2017. Now those women are just left in tears and I have no other option either.