This then is the central question for storytellers and -gatherers. A close examination of one example can uncover this richer, personal texture of a time in history we might otherwise gloss over.The act of commemorating by asking someone to recount may also be about forgetting (Hamilakis and Labanyi 2008), and an oral history may reveal as much about that as what is remembered in the moment. In addition, the act of telling one's history can reveal tensions that a carefully crafted text might overlook, or ignore all together (Saikia 2000).What of all of this--in a concrete example "Mrs Joan Lash, wife of an ADC [aide-de-camp] to the Governor of Madras," talked in 1985 about everyday life in India to Mary Thatcher. The text of the interview, made available by the Centre for South Asian Studies, Cambridge, has been included here. An abbreviated thematic analysis of what was said is this paper and a suggestive object lesson in what history does not always tell us .To let the text speak, the transcribed version of the Lash interview, including Thatcher's questions, was first formatted in a table with 108 rows, one for each sentence, and three columns for numbering and notes. Repeated readings generated questions and comments--the notes--for many sentences. From these notes, larger categories, tentative themes in the third column, were isolated. A careful reading of the text, including the words of both interviewer and interviewee, showed it had many more candidate themes than those highlighted and can be reported here.
Textual analysis focused on Mrs. Lash and at the sentence rather than word or phrase level. However, the importance of the themes selected come from the words and phrases, or their equivalents, that Mrs. Lash provided. Thus, adherence to the text and what it says gave rise to the themes. Independent of the text, as may be seen below, the themes stand on their own as important in the texture of a life.
The themes selected for further study and analysis after the sifting out process was a result of a back and forth process, a kind of hermeneutic spiral both up and down until the briefest, cursory analysis could be summarized (Gadamer 1988).
Mrs. Joan Lash, at the time of the interview and in the eighth decade of her life, showed "placid acceptance" of "the pattern of life" as she knew and experienced it. She also showed she had "different mothers" and different ideas about what and where "home" was. Forgetting about or not remembering figure into the themes of home and different mothers. Tensions around "Being abandoned everywhere" (Line 107) relate to home and mother as well as seem to have contributed to placid acceptance of the pattern of life.
The pattern of life is Mrs. Lash's phrase, and she uses it three times (Lines 2, 31, and 80). In lines 28 and 79, she also uses phrases which can readily be understood as the pattern of life. Five references to the way it was for her, combined with being placid and accepting (Line 45) and just taking it (Line 46), strongly suggest a way of being.
Telltale in this pattern of the way of Mrs. Lash is how she refers to what happened. She is often acted upon rather than acting. Consider what she says just after "just taking it": "And then when you became eighteen my father and mother were both out in India then and I then went out to