The Grand Trunk Road - Recording Oral History Interviews
Finding People to Interview
Go to where the people are.
Every town or city has key public places where people congregate, be it a tourist attraction (image 1) or a town square. People that are hanging around usually have time to talk. I often treat this meeting as introductory and arrange a time to conduct a proper interview later. However, it is important to show sensitivity to particular locations. I hoped to conduct several interviews at the Golden Temple in Amritsar. However, I soon realised that people did not wish to be distracted from their spiritual engagement.
Ask people for leads and contacts, no matter how vague.
I circulated my wish list of themes to friends and colleagues before I even set off. My list included people with memories of the 1947 Partition of India, early migrants to Britain, and industry connections with Britain. I also considered the speciality of each of my contacts. For example, a journalist friend offered some useful media contacts in India. Another friend recommended speaking to the original owner of Delhiís oldest bookshop. I managed to trace and interview the 79-year-old retired owner. He not only recounted his memories of partition but also offered some excellent local contacts, all of whom were particularly forthcoming because they held the bookshop owner in the highest regard.
It is also worth investing time in a particular environment to generate results.
We realised too late that the match we had gone to watch at the prestigious Lahore Polo Ground was cancelled, but we decided to hang around. Tim and I spent several hours waiting for a polo player to make time to speak to us. I finally conducted the interview on the deserted polo field (image 2). The polo player was so busy that I wanted to get him away from everyone, and after such a long wait, I didnít want anyone to interrupt.