I was all set to interview her when the day came. I was perfectly optimistic about it yet very nervous. For an amateur interviewer who follows her passions I did not know what I would do if the plan were to collapse or any mishaps and misunderstandings mar the interview during its process. She is a powerful woman who draws respect and admiration from people. She is Dayabai, the ‘goi’ or special friend of the Gonds and the oppressed of Madhya Pradesh. Her life is a rather interesting and turbulent one. The documentary ‘Ottayal’ by Shiny Jacob Benjamin does a thoroughly good job of laying bare the essence and life of Dayabai.
Bearing in mind the common questions asked by other interviewers, I sat down with the Holy Spirit to plan a list of questions I would put forward. I then prayed that everything would go on well.
When the day arrived, plan A failed. She was to address a gathering and I was charted to meeting her before her segment began. Plan B was to wait for her speech to end and do my thing on catching up with her. There was absolutely no guarantee that she would have the time to do so after that. I was worried and deep down inside me, I was afraid of watching the aeroplane of my dreams (metaphorically) crashing and burning before my eyes. She didn’t arrive on schedule. My heart was in my mouth. She was delayed by an hour or two. I almost died. She finally arrived and took her place at the dais. I was nervous. She took her time to speak. I was recording her impressions. She was done with the speech. It was time to run to her and shoot! However the queue for lunch was large and labyrinthine.How was I to find her? It was then that I saw a few volunteers motioning me to enter the private dining hall. I followed them and saw our bishop waiting with Dayabai who was interacting with a few priests. She had no time, I was told. Her flight would be leaving in an hour or so and she had to check-in at the airport. Hence I was to stand there and ask her two or three questions only.The rest could be ‘managed’ somehow. My heart sank. I did not want to do a half -assed interview.
That was when my Dad got a genius idea! He agreed to drop Dayabai at the airport, using our car. That way, the interview would happen and she could clear the airport formalities without any difficulties. Armed with some confidence, happiness and my cell phone recorder application, I proceeded to my task. My brother , darling that he is, agreed to videotape the entire interview from his position in the front seat. The half an hour to forty-five minutes that we had in the car was full of smiles, pleasant memories, anecdotes, powerful realizations and plans for the future. It may sound cliched but let me tell you that it was a priceless experience for me. I would have traded it for nothing else in the world. I am now sharing with you a small part of my interview with this woman of steel. This will also be published (hopefully) in the Agape magazine which is the official bulletin of the Madras diocese. A sequel to this one will be posted once it appears in my department’s literary journal.
It was a crazy but amazing journey! Here goes the story of the interview in the car…………