The Bangalore Literature Festival began with ‘Remembering Gauri’. Gauri Lankesh whose tragic death continues to haunt our souls was given a heart stirring rendition by co-founder of Sandbox Collective,Nimi Ravindran, poet and theatre artist Padmavati Rao, and theatre artist Kabir Jaffrey.
Nimi Ravindran began with a poem from Rukmini that talked about how we walked backwards each time someone was slayed and how ‘progress is no storm but the freedom to speak without fear’ and how we should read history without hysteria. She also read out Keki Daruwala’s ‘A poem to the Indian rightwingers’, published by the Indian Cultural Forum. Padmavathi Rao also read out a poem published by Indian Cultural Forum written by Salil Chaudhary titled ‘Rakth Rakth Rakth’. Kabir Jaffrey read out a song written by Liyakadh in Hindi ‘Mein Kalburgi Mein Gauri Lankesh’.
The panelists also read excerpts from articles written by Gauri. One of them was on her father, titled ‘Appa’. Gauri talks about how she lost a race when she was ten years old but was gifted with a book of short stories, her love for stories and how her father would always give her a blank cheque to buy books from the Premier Bookshop. Another of Gauri’s articles talks about how her mother turned a writer and how her novel ‘Sour Mango and I’ that won the B.Saroja Devi award, happened. In another article Gauri recollects how she happened to translate Poorna Chandra Tejaswi’s novel. All these articles are excerpts from the book, ‘The way I see it: A Gauri Lankesh Reader’ edited by Chandan Gowda.
The panelists also read out a poem by Rakesh Sharma, who doesn’t wish to say R.I.P to Gauri but asks if it is not time to say enough is enough. A poem from Sen Gupta titled ‘For Gauri Lankesh’ that questions if they think they have silenced her forever. A poem from Ramesh that says Gauri showed the world what it means to be a journalist. Padmavathi Rao had her own tribute titled ‘Gauri Ke Naam’.
The session ended with a poem from Kavita Lankesh, Gauri’s sister titled ‘My Sister, My Soul Mate’. Her poem reminded the audience of the kind of person Gauri was, how she was humiliated by a certain group of people and how now millions proclaim, “We are all Gauri”. Kavita says even in death Gauri burst out like the seeds of a sunflower.
It was a beautiful, poetic, and fitting tribute to Gauri Lankesh. The poems not only did remember Gauri, but also mourned the loss of Kalburgi, Dabholkar, Pansare, and many others whose lives ended tragically for speaking out what they believed in. All the angst and pain was evident in each of the poems chosen to be read this morning.