Friday, August 8, 2014

The perils of interviewing

While interviewing people in the course of work, I always am slightly uncomfortable. Researchers ask respondents for their time, their opinions and their  emotions. All of this is often willingly given. And what do we give in exchange? Very often, it is nothing.
And sometimes, we offer entertainment in exchange.
This happened when N and I trudged up to a village almost exactly in the centre of Uttarakhand. 'We are trying to understand the river', we said. 'We would like to speak with you.' We were led to a group of  five merry old women-maybe in their seventies. These were old friends who had now moved to various cities, but return to their village every year.
 On age:
'What is your age?' I asked one.
'The same as yours'
'But I am 37!'
'That's what I said. Now write that down!'

On livestock:
We asked them the number of cows, buffaloes, goats, and mules  in the village. At the end of  it, one of them pointed to a mango tree.
'There are crows there. We don't know how many, but you should go and count them.'




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