Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91

Vol. XXX No. 22, March 16-31, 2021

Vax Populi

by Ranjitha Ashok

All conversations among citizens now begin with a set of terse, predictable questions:

Got it?

Which one?

Oh, that one?

From where?

Long wait?

Feeling okay?

Now for some, to get or not to get – that is the question.

There are many who are a bit cat-i’-the-adage about the whole thing, with their ‘maybe-we-should-s’ getting confused by their ‘dare-nots’. Well, there are lots of strange rumours floating around about possible side-effects, so that’s understandable.

Then there are those who are against any kind of vaccination, plain and simple, and these worthies are best left alone with the stand they have taken.

But a hearteningly large number, possibly fuelled by a strong surge of I’m-damned-if-I’m-going-to-live-like-this-anymore passion, have taken a more determinedly pro-active approach, bustling around, making queries, getting registered, and generally displaying all the signs of going into battle against The Virus filled with a grim determination to win. Some citizens of a certain vintage are even trotting off to vaccination centres, crooning: ‘Vaccine, Vaccine, Vaccine, Vacciiinnneee…’ a la Dolly Parton.

And this school of thought needs to be encouraged with word and gesture.

Of course, since Humankind, bless it, is at its core a point-proving creature, a certain competitiveness has crept in.

“I got fever for a day”.

“Just fever? I had fever and intense arm pain.”

“Well, I had fever plus arm pain plus giddiness plus dry throat plus exhaustion.”

As there’s very little anyone can say to top that, a slightly resentful silence then ensues. (This lamentable tendency to compete for the Greater-Victim Title is as exhausting as it is widespread.)

And if you, in cheerful fine fettle, should bumble into this already brittle, bristling atmosphere, and quip: “Really? I was absolutely fine”, well, just be prepared to be struck off a few lists, and perhaps being disinvited to next week’s coffee meet (only six people with all protocols in place).

‘Social distancing’ can sometimes turn a bit sinister.

Individual experience in getting the shots seems to vary from ‘very smooth’ to what the nation witnessed on a news telecast recently. A sweet young anchor, having chosen her target rather unwisely from among a teeming, heaving crowd milling around in a hospital lobby, cooed the question: “Can you tell us about your experience, sir?” to a senior citizen. What followed must have made her feel like what the little Dutch boy may have experienced had he taken his thumb out of that dike all those centuries ago.

Battered.

Because said senior citizen promptly exploded, and then proceeded to express his utter disgust and displeasure at the system, the organising, the hospital in particular – and the behaviour of his fellow citizens, all in a pretty good imitation of Mount Vesuvius on a bad day.

The anchor, finally showing some presence of mind after the initial shock, quickly moved the mike away and continued cooing at more empathetic targets.

Well, glitches are perhaps only to be expected.

In sharp contrast, you also hear comments on how easy the whole procedure has been for some, with many adding, “The place was also so clean,”, with an inflexion of surprise that shows a rather unfortunate lack of faith in our civic authorities.

Come on, guys – be fair.

Just look at the size and scale of this operation.

Sobering thought. As exciting as all this is – please note: Even two jabs do not total armour make.

This is not, repeat, not a magic potion.

Which means protocols and precautions are the sensible option for a while longer. If you are one of those who thinks, “I’ve had my shots and am all set to party”, think again. Although you really can’t blame anyone who is poised for take-off like a champagne cork just waiting to pop, after all these months of waiting and loneliness and hoping.

But…

Long way to go still, people, and while there are still dense clouds of reluctance floating around, hopefully more and more citizens will come forward, and answer this call to…er…present arms.

And together march forward into a healthier, safer world.

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