#OurGauri: “Gauri came across as firm, harsh and very serious, but she was very tender at heart”
Translated from the original Kannada by Yogesh S
October 17, 2017
Going by the belief system of the society and the social norms, our friendship was not possible. We differed on a number of issues. In spite of these issues we remained very close friends. The love and care for each other had outgrown our differences and we believed that we could share anything and everything with each other. This belief had taken both of us under its control.
All of her friends were always aware and were afraid of the fact that something like this could happen to her; we could not, however, anticipate, how it would be when fear or anticipation becomes a reality. It is scary. Even though we know the reality, our mind forces us to think about this as unreal, as an illusion.
I wonder: since when has the differences in opinion become this expensive, and a life this cheap?
For the fourth pillar of democracy, is it a grave crime to discuss the questions that a conscious society is facing today, or talk about the challenges that these questions are posing, or to discuss the way in which the members of a conscious society should live? Who would even argue that it is a crime to talk about the problems that society, a community is facing? We would feel extremely proud and thankful looking at her secular values, her concern for people, and her struggle for social well-being.
Whenever I would complain about the language that she would use, she would defend herself by telling me that I had no idea about the range and nature of things that are happening around us today. It was not possible to write about them in literary language. We should reply to them in their own language, she would say.
Whatever our differences in opinions might have been, Gauri was the most humble and down to earth person I had met in my entire life. Her manner of working could be been critiqued but never of her honesty and determination. She was reputed throughout the state for this: her honesty and determination. The way people arrived from far away to Bengaluru in spite of the heavy downpour, to pay their last respects for her, proves this.
Gauri was always ready to listen to the problems of people struggling and to discuss any matter that was pro-democracy and pro-people and always gave time for it. She would, nevertheless, get back to working as soon as the discussion was over. I would always receive a call from her, asking me about the controversies of the writers in the world of literature. She would always confirm the quotes from any poem or novel that she would use in her English writings.
Once she had laughed by saying, “now I declare you a real feminist” after reading the preface that I wrote for Indiramma’s autobiography. I still remember her laughter.
Mangalore University had decided to include Nagaveni’s novel Gandhi Banda in their syllabus. This decision wasn’t welcomed and was strongly protested, as the novel was infamous for its casteist remarks about a certain caste. I had called Gauri to discus this. After listening to me, she suggested me to write and make others write too; she also told that she would make a report about it and, if I remember it right, all the reports were ready the very next day and published the same week.
I do not remember her desiring any material comforts for herself; she never dreamt of a house or property or jewelry. In fact, these things were not even present in her list of things she wanted and the things that she gave prominence to.
Whenever I remember Gauri I am reminded of a Sanskrit subhashita, Katorani vajraadapi mrudooni kusumaadapi (Firmer than diamonds and more tender than the flowers). I am sure if she were here she would have made fun of me and asked me to speak in Kannada. Gauri came across as firm, harsh and very serious, but she was very tender at heart in her personal life.
I received a call from her once from Mysore asking me for my favorite colour as she wanted to buy an ilkal saree for me. Since she was no expert of sarees, she thought she’d better confirm it once with me. When I saw the saree that she had got for me, I realized it was not ilkal saree at all. She had been cheated. When I told her what was wrong with this endeavour of hers, she burst into a loud guffaw and wondered what kind of people exist in this world; she also had said, “Well, that is ok. It is because of people like me, they make a living. If you do not like the saree, let us give it away to someone.” I told her there was no need for that, as I would keep it with me as a gift from the great Gauri. Much later, she was in ilakal and had made sure she would buy me an original ilakal. On giving it to me she said, “I am satisfied now”.
It was my cosine’s (Chikkammana magalu-daughter of an aunt) wedding. The wedding was to take place very close to Gauri’s office. I invited her to come along with all of her colleagues for lunch. She wasn’t sure about it initially, but later agreed, saying, since it is my family, she wouldn’t mind. She and her colleagues arrived at around 2pm. She was readily posing for everyone who wanted a picture with her and spent a good time joking with my relatives. She also told her colleagues, “We do not usually attend weddings. This is your chance. Please eat well”. She loved sweets from K.C. Das and I do not remember meeting her without buying sweets for her from there. She was no less. Once she had sent sweets for me with Kavita (Gauri’s sister), who had come to meet me to discuss some story. Even though she had determined and firm stands on social and political issues, interpersonal relationships were very important and very dear to her.
If she had to inform me or talk to me about something late in the night, she would drop an email or a message. The message would start like this: “Hi, sleeping beauty. If the world now knows about my everyday, it is because of you and Rahmat. If it is easy for everyone to joke around me and make fun of me, it is only because of you…”
I am flooded with memories of Gauri. The last time I met her, she was eating. Somebody had given her Khakhra and she was eating that as a meal. On finishing her meal, she gave me a bit of it to me and asked me to give it to Chidu. I told her, “We eat proper meals madame, you better keep this for yourself’. To this, she replied, “He likes it, just take it with you.”
Pardon me if what ever I have written here comes across as too personal. I could have written about Gauri’s ideological stand but everybody would have done that. I wished to share these sweet memories, which would remain with me forever.
One more thing: I owed two things to Gauri. Firstly, to publish a compilation of articles on P. Lankesh under the title, ‘Lankesh-ondu sansatika sankathana’ (Lankesh — An Iconic Story). Secondly, I wished to interview artists and writers who regularly contributed to Lankesh Patrike and publish their interviews.
First published in the commemorative edition by Gauri Lankesh Patrike
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