#Our Gauri: Gauri Lankesh Over the Years
Translated from the original Kannada by Yogesh S
November 22, 2017
It was in 2003 that I first saw Gauri from close quarters. She sat next to me in one of the programs in Bayalu Rangamandira and was speaking to someone over her mobile phone. I would not have liked anything about her back then. I learnt a great deal about her through my interactions with her, starting from then, till 5 September 2017. There were hundreds of personal and emotional things that had happened. There also have been certain things that would trouble us throughout our life and I am not sure if it will be possible to write about them. What is important to note here is the way Gauri changed in the last fourteen years; more than a change, it was an evolution.
Gauri might have come across as someone who was an English educated, shallow and liberal person. That was true about her till 2003. Some might even argue just by looking at her physical appearance that she was the same till her last days. Madame did not even look up to the ideology of Lohia like her father. She had not got many good things to say about communists. Even though she could not write about all of this like her father, she would bring it up in her discussions. She had not read anything by Ambedkar till she became an “activist”; but by 2014, when there were talks about “red-blue” unity (Marxist-Amberdkarite unity) she had internalised both Marxism and Ambedkarite thought. How did this happen? As Devnoor says, “we should convert these ideologies into spirits, mix them and drink them.”
Many leftists, some for strategic purposes and some due to their acceptance of Ambedkar’s ideology, decided to unite themselves with Ambedkarite ideology and politics. I had not read Ambedkar’s Annihilation of Caste. There was a controversy around Arundhati Roy’s introduction to the book and by the time I reached office, Madame had finished reading the book. Mallige and I went to see her in her office. Mallige started talking about Arundhati Roy’s recent book, Ministry of Utmost Happiness, and hearing this, she handed a copy to Mallige, saying she has finished reading it. Gauri Madame would read at least two books a week.
This was not to just read books. This was her effort to understand the people she was reading; understand their ideology and hence create her own ideology. She could also write about it. The change that one could see in her style of writing over a period of ten years makes her agenda clear. Just like Lankesh, she could never write anything in a sophisticated manner.
We got a chance to listen to Gauri’s wonderful speech in Shivamogga Literature festival. Religious people there had protested against her speech. The event was conducted amidst immense security. It was not a pleasant sight. Gauri mentioned this in her speech and had said, “I just do not care about such people”. The way she said that was very different from her usual style. I was surprised to see Gauri delivering an intellectual speech. In her initial days of public appearances, she would ask all of us to give her some pointers to talk about in her speeches, but later, informed by all the reading she had done, she never felt necessary to do that.
The change was not only in terms of her ideology. We never liked her classist approach to cleanliness and privacy. The way in which she transformed herself even in this regard was very important for me and the likes of me. Gauri Lankesh was my Madame, Gauri, and amma. I am sticking to the deadline and the word limit as I am reminded how much it angered her when I missed a deadline or crossed the word limit. Nothing has come to normalcy since the night of 5 September. We are all busy organising the protest on the 12th. I shall write about every lesson I learnt from Gauri later.
First published in the Commemorative edition by Gauri Lankesh Patrike
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