A Partial View of Interview
Personally I have a weakness
for taking interviews. It gives you an opportunity to meet
the kind of people, read stars, you could never meet without
the excuse of taking interviews. You can talk to them face
to face, and even ask bizarre and offensive questions. Moreover,
you can brag to your friends, making up stories such as how
you mercilessly attacked the Home Minister with a barrage
of questions, or how your cleverly contrived supplementary
questions made a particular snob filmstar look like a fool,
and how one of your unfailing questions left a particular
famous novelist racking his brains for an answer, which he
certainly never found out.
It isn't all fun though. Usually
people are quite co-operative when requested for an interview.
Sometimes some people are so helpful that you begin to feel
helpless. I recall interviewing a professor of psychology
for a story on the ever-growing terrorism in society. We had
a session of two and a half hours on one morning. The interview
went well and I returned home happy and satisfied. Towards
the evening on the same day he called me on the phone, asked
me to add another 'extremely important point' and correct
a particular incorrect piece of information. I felt surprised
and even grateful. When I received his second call the next
night I was almost done, but he kept on insisting that I cut
off a particular line, which, he feared, might annoy 'certain
quarters'. His third call came the following morning –
he phoned again and asked if it was too late to insert 'a
very crucial point' in the second paragraph. I never found
out when he made the fourth call as I took shelter at a friend's
place on an emergency basis.
Not everybody is that friendly.
In fact, some people, who have a track record of giving two
interviews every week, don't have a very high opinion about
journalists. When asked for an interview they will just reject
you point blank, but, on a second thought, reverse the decision
with great reluctance. They hate to be seen as discourteous.
But, when they do agree, it is on one condition: 'You must
allow me to edit it before it goes for printing'. A very objectionable
condition, but you just cannot help it. Then there are those
who, after giving an interview, look forward to seeing it
in print anxiously. They sit with a magnifying glass to find
out every itsy bitsy mistake. If there isn't any mistake,
a rare thing in newspapers or magazines, they feel very upset
and jump up in joy even if they can spot a couple of typos.
Then they call the editor and humbly ask him why he doesn't
fire illiterate people who don't know the difference between
a colon and a semicolon, let alone that between a dash and
I, however, strongly believe
that interviewing really old people is the most challenging,
if not dangerous. People in their advanced ages already have
a great fondness for talking, so when you ask for their interview,
it is like opening a floodgate. I can remember the hardship
I went through when I interviewed a poet, in his early sixties.
He seemed to be possessed by an inescapable impulse to incessantly
talk. Though I sorted it out regarding how I wanted to go
about the interview, in reality I just couldn't contain him
within that scheme. When I asked him about the source of his
inspiration regarding a particular poem he started on the
right track, but soon slipped into a completely different
path -- "I don't know how you people could tolerate such
crap X (read any renowned poets) has been producing in the
name of poetry" or "how could you expect great works
in a country where the real geniuses remain neglected?"
You certainly know who the neglected genius is. When he paused
after 20 or 30 minutes neither of us could recall what the
original question was and how on earth we had managed to come
to an issue not even distantly related to our real concern.
Things got worse when I was
assigned to interview an octogenarian singer. By then he had
long stopped singing and the sound he most frequently produced
those days resembled more like a coughing fit than music.
But he seemed to be absolutely oblivious to the fact and kept
on indulging into singing a few lines here and a few lines
there every now and then. His aging memory had also started
to fail him and he had to struggle to remember names or dates
necessary for a certain question/s. Fortunately, his wife
arrived on the scene and played the perfect interpreter. After
a certain point I noticed that his wife was answering all
the questions and the only task he was doing was endorsing
each of her answers nodding his head. I, of course, didn't
tell my boss who I had really interviewed.