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gauri-lankesh1c

Dear Gouri..

A few hours ago, above the loud and deafening sounds of the guns that fired into the air to give you a “honourable state farewell”, I heard the calls of the parakeets frightened to flight by the noise. I felt you squirm even in the coldness of the murder that fate and human intolerance brought on your frail body…squirm at the “justice” meted out to you by the rulers.

My friendship and sisterhood with you is just 24 hours old. I do not claim to know you or having seen you. But as the night passed after the news of your murder and the day dawned with a drizzle in the city where I live, I felt close to you. I wondered what your thoughts were last night as you entered your house. I would like to think that you would have warmed up a meal, planned for the next day and may be connected to the youth who were close to you. Or would you have thought with a burning heart about the displaced and dispossessed in the country, the Rohingya refugees,  the safety of women in the city you were living or some mundane activity like ironing the dress for tomorrow? Would you have been satisfied with the recent edition of Lankesh Patrike about to be released in a day or two? Would the bullet that ripped your forehead have shattered that special part of your brain filled with the most humane, just and rational thoughts that made you a true and complete human being?

As I kept reading about you, what touched me best were your forthright comments on life and living “ We cannot be so dead. It is human to express and react. What we feel impulsively is usually our most honest response”. This I felt holds the essence of your being as a human being, most as a woman. That must be why you reacted to a friend who requested you to get married and settle that you are settled and one does not need a man to feel settled. That must also be why you were able to so easily adopt bold young people like Jignesh Mevani, Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid, and Shehla Rashid Shora as your own children. I am sure that was also why you could retort so powerfully to Narendra Modi’s statement about gold being the strength of women that the actual power of women is intelligence and freedom to think and act as an independent human being!

I wonder if you could have allayed my fears and that of many I met today at the meeting to protest your killing. It may seem ironical and tragic to say that we missed you most at your own condolence meeting- how would you have responded and reacted to the kind of end that you had to meet with? Would you have unleashed the blame game and demanded a series of violent killings on those who did this to you? Or would you have started a dialogue and debate on democracy, freedom of speech,especially of the media that your rational, sensible and sensitive brain would have asked for? Yes, from the thoughts and words you left behind I feel strongly so:

“I will do what I will, say what I should. The intolerant voices find strength in our silence.Let them learn to argue using words instead of threats’

From this it is obvious that you had faced many threats and shameful abuses. But like any person with a passion for life and adherence to justice and integrity you kept doing what you should and spoke about all that you should have. In that sense, Gouri your life is complete. But we missed you today like never before. We felt we were few and weak. We mustered up all courage to say  we should be strong and together. We were afraid to quote from the abusive statements already appearing in the fast becoming “anti-social” social media about you deserving what you got being a naxal sympathizer, an anti-national, an anti-Hindu and all the various adjectives being poured out. We felt these caps fitted us too with half the grit, conviction and boldness you have been displaying till your last breath.

I understand with deep sorrow and sense of loss that in spite of all the challenges you spoke and felt with your heart and mind. When the sickening rhetoric and self aggrandizements of a mind perverted by power and ego is broadcasted as Man Ki Bath, your genuine and true deliberations of the mind and heart stands out loud and undeniable in its integrity and sincerity. Your innocent glee at being able to communicate with the youth you chose to adopt, to remember their birthdays, gift them costumes they wore with pride, cook them a meal and wait expectantly for their next visit home is a statement in itself. The simple gesture of wearing a kurta with Madhubani paintings when Kanaya Kumar visits symbolizing his land of birth –Bihar and the display of his inscription to you on the book From Bihar to Tihar is the most apt and courageous political statement that you could have made in these troubled times. This alone displays on whose side you have been all the time.

Gouri, how I wish I could turn to you for answers to the many questions that are filling my mind since 2 days. When I see your killing being equated to the narrow, petty annihilations and intolerant snuffing happening all around, I wish to know what you think about it. You were aware and alert about the guns pointed towards you…for your undying efforts to define and reinstate secular, democratic values and humanism in the country.When I hear many perpetrators of crime and cold blooded murder here in my State condone your murder with much emotion and vigour, I hang my head in shame.  As we stood last evening in the fading light with many young people I thought of what you wrote about why you keep posting pictures with young people on face book:

We share a dream for our country, our community, our brethren, our world. And we shall win,despite our distractors”.. you were aware and clear about the need to come together and stand united against the “distractors”.

The clear idea you had about this country of ours rose above the narrow and confining depictions of Nationalism that is now being propagated by the despots and fascists. You wrote in July a lament that is not your style : “Too depressed….why is it becoming so difficult to be proud of my country, its leaders, heritage, history, unifying culture, inclusive nature, stand against violence, basic humanism”….today standing at the protest meeting many of us also felt tired and depressed about trying to hold and hang on to the gossamers of hope, justice, equity and democracy that symbolizes this land and its people. I wished to ask you how you manage to get over the depression and move ahead with renewed energy and vigour. I meet with the silence and void of a day- the first day without you to share the world with!

But somewhere hidden in your writings I do chance upon the solid citadel of hope you had managed to make : the hope in communicating to the young and gleaning out their vision of life and future, freedom and commitment, love and justice, courage and steadfastness. Your brief writings on Junaid breaks the heart with its promise of better times and attitudes

Junaid, my little one, I promise you that people like myself shall try to redeem an India where little kids like you shall not be killed because of their religion, where people will not be discriminated because of their caste, where men will not die in manholes, where women will not be pushed into prostitution in the name of tradition, where. .. . the list is so long that it can exhaust anyone, including Mahatma Gandhi were he alive today. You searched for intelligence, social awareness and sensitivity in young minds with rabid optimism and there in was your courage against the cowards and goons who pointed the guns at your beautiful frail self.

Yes, dear Gouri you sought out the best in human beings and you were strong enough to state with simplicity that “humanism is more important than anything else”. You looked around you with clear and honest eyes not wearing any blinkers and said “ Death is not funny. None of this is funny any more.

As I stood last evening with friends and comrades trying to comprehend the complexity of issues we are facing each day, I too felt this is a cruel joke where nothing is funny anymore…and ironically I want to share this feeling with you.. the one who could say unabashed that you lacked subtle diplomacy….

With you wherever you are..my friend and sister just 24 hours old but more closer than anyone …if we could meet just once in Kerala, we could have shared the best beef dish available in my home town….

Anitha S

Thiruvananthapuram

After a protest meeting organized by Women in Media Collective on 6th September at 4 pm.

2 Comments

  1. I have the same feelings.

  2. K SHESHU BABU says:

    The spirit of Gauri will guide millions Al over the world