Chiddu Rajghatta, Gauri Lankesh’s ex husband and his wife Mary Breeding, write this beautiful eulogy to her:
Gauri heard Amazing Grace when she visited me in the U.S in 1996, long after we had gone our own ways. Being agnostic, we knew our eventual destination would be the same — born of earth, returned to earth. In between, we had agreed, there is so much space for grace.
Through many dangers, toils and snares
We have already come.
T’was grace that brought us safe thus far
And grace will lead us home,
And grace will lead us home
If you want a measure of that grace, see this tribute by my wife Mary Breeding, wishing that our daughter will have Gauri, as a role model. Amazing Grace. Gauri returned that grace immeasurably, showering love on Diya and Dhyan like only she could. Generous spirit, capacious heart, boundless affection.
This is what the wingnuts won’t understand. Such graces are beyond them, beyond their comprehension.
When words failed me, Mary Breeding said it all.
The night freedom of speech went silent in Bangalore: A few hours ago, while on the phone with my SIL the news flashed across the TV screen: “Gauri Lankesh Shot Dead.” It had just happened. Gauri, our Gauri, had been shot in front of her home. Gasps on the other end of the phone. This cannot be. “Are you sure?” I asked.
I dropped the phone and immediately ran upstairs to confirm. I called Chidu. I had to get to him and had to be with him in that moment. Heartbroken. Sad. Horrible moment.
It’s a full moon—full enough that some crazy wingnuts were motivated enough to pull in front of her home and to brutally spray her with bullets. How? No words. The fight for freedom of speech went silent in that moment.
She was the first wife to my husband. She was my friend, and she was a powerful force of nature to be reckoned with. We loved her. A rationalist. An atheist. A proud Kannadiga, and a firm believer in everyone’s right to speak their minds and to worship as they pleased.
Gauri stood up for those who could not speak for themselves. Through her newspaper, she gave them voice. Just knowing her was enough to make you feel proud. She was firmly anti-establishment, and she did not hold back in going where others feared and calling out injustice when she saw it.
Tonight the fight for freedom of speech, for secularism, and for the right to justice in India—and everywhere—is real. Gauri was the kind of role model I wish for my daughter, strong and fiercely independent.
Minutes after her death Diya came running upstairs ready to go to sleep. She asked, “Mommy, what’s wrong? What happened?” I hugged her and told her everything was OK, unable to come to terms with the news. Gauri loved Diya, and Diya was always fascinated with Gauri. As is our good night ritual, Diya pulled out the book “Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls.” I tried to fight the tears. She turned to Fadumo Dayib, Somalia’s first female presidential candidate and asked, “Mommy, can we read about Fadumo again? Can you tell me what war is again and why people fight wars?”
I fought back the tears and bit my lip as I struggled to explain to Diya why people fight wars and why there is injustice and hatred in the world. “Don’t worry Mommy. People can choose to be good or bad. Just like [Roald Dahl’s] Matilde. She chose to use her power for good, and taught that mean Ms. Churchball a lesson. We can use our powers for good against bad people too.”
“Yes.” I said, as I read the last line of Fadumo’s story: “ My mother always told me, ‘You hold all of life’s possibilities in the palm of your hand,’ and that’s true.” Diya was so sleepy her eyes were shutting and I could feel Gauri there with us in that moment. I think she would have approved.
Now, I’ll have to muster up the strength to read her the story of our truly beloved rebel girl, Gauri Lankesh.