A Close View of the First Interview

Zulfiqar Haiderali

First appeared in Dawn

Interviews are no longer fun as they used to be in the good old days. Now it seems that the interviewer gets more attention than the interviewee.

Nostalgia persuaded me to attempt reviving the old practice. I called a very prominent and most interviewed personality around. So prolific, in fact, rumour has it that he is working on a ‘how to’ book on giving interviews.

To my utter amazement, and despite being an amateur with not many connections or much experience in this, I was granted a session with this larger than life personality. And there I was sitting right in front of him, as confident as if appearing in a practical parachuting class for the first time.

"Er..good morning, sir" It was only moments later that I realized it to be five in the afternoon. Running a hand into the pocket revealed I had left the painstakingly prepared questionnaire at home. Embarrassed, I managed a sheepish glance at him.

There was a loud rumbling noise accompanied simultaneously with the opening of his mouth - a yawn. "So you have forgotten to bring that paper too." Now how on earth did he know remains a mystery to me till todate.

I tried unsuccessfully recalling the questions. They all seemed to elude me when I needed them the most. Ahh…here’s a beauty!

"Your recent domestic problems…I mean would you let these affect your professional commitments?" I said and watched him triumphantly as if saying, "now answer this, buddy!"

"No, " came the ice cold reply. Something’s wrong, I thought.

"I see, " said I. Maybe this interview business is tough after all. Wait a minute now… I remembered I’d read somewhere that some people preferred informal chats rather than snobbish and direct interviews. Okay pal, let’s have it your way. Let me warm you up a little.

"I know that you love books. Would you like to tell our readers what you are reading these days?" I asked as casually as possible.

"The American Heritage Dictionary." This man was making fun of me! But aloud I said:

"A very interesting book indeed."

I threw another bait, "That’s a wonderful suit you are wearing. Where is it from?"

He looked at me for a moment. Then said,

"’Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy’, William Shakespeare. ‘Let me be dressed fine as I will,’ Isaac Watts."

"Hasta la vista, baby’, Arnold Schwarzenegger." These words just escaped my mouth before I could take them back. He gave me a such a fearful look that I refrained from an excuse. Serves him right! I acted as if nothing had happened.

The whole situation was fast slipping out of my hands. Then I had this terrifying feeling of being made a fool all this time. Well, be it that way, I was not going to give up that easily. So I bombarded him with another bulky one:

"It seems that some critics, actively engaged in bashing you in the press, have joined hands against you?"

"As far as accusations go, I have no concerns whatsoever."

Whew!! At last a somewhat comprehensive reply. Carefully I carried it ahead, hopefully for some sense.

"So it means you are ignoring them?"

"Ignorance leads to confusion and that, eventually, would be considered as ignorance."

Now I hadn’t the slightest idea where this damned conversation was heading, or rather, what it was all about. Anyway at least I had managed to get something out of this mouth.

I nodded as if grasping and indulging into every moment of this nonsense, and asked:

"I see, would you elaborate on that?"

"Implicit statements need not carry elaboration." It was hopeless.

"Only speculations then, I suppose?" trying one for the last time. Besides, I was getting bored.


Precisely my foot! I had had enough so I decided to call off this whole twaddle of total rubbish.

"Well, sir, thank you so much for your precious time. This whole conversation has been very fruitful." I stood up, shook his hand and took a picture of him sitting there grunting with my borrowed camera. It was much later that I found it to be empty of any reel.