Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol XXXI No. 19, January 16-31, 2022
‘The curse has come upon me,” cried The Man from Madras Musings as he awoke one morning last week to find his throat sore, his temperature soaring and a headache literally roaring around his brain.And sure enough, diagnosis proved that MMM had had COVID. There was little further to be done other than locking up the Madras Musings office and remaining at home, hoping that the virus would go away without taking MMM along. So far at least, that seems to be the case, with MMM slowly recovering. But there is no denying this is an illness with no redeeming feature.
Much against the advice of MMM’s good lady, also known as She Who Must Be Obeyed, MMM, let it be known in his friends and social media circles that he was down with it. It was his logic that this way people would stay away and not call up with requests for this, that, or the other, always a nuisance in the writerly life. But as always, MMM’s good lady was proved right. There followed a barrage of calls and messages all of which MMM is grateful for, not because it shows concern people have for him, but because it immediately gave him enough content for this column. It is, as the name suggests a compilation of questions that people ought not to ask any COVID patient.
1. ‘How did you get it?’ MMM wishes he had an answer but all he has to say is that it is downright irrelevant as to how he got it. As a normally active person MMM, even though fully masked, may have been inadvertently exposed to some carrier of the virus. In a working life, it is impossible to completely isolate anyway.
2. ‘Which version have you got?’ Here again, MMM wishes he knew – there was the usual medley of symptoms – body ache, chills, sore throat, watery eyes, lack of taste and just about everything else. Now how was MMM to find out which of the many variants of COVID he had got?
3. ‘What are your symptoms?’ For this, see above. But that has never been a sufficient answer. Most people expect you to repeat all the symptoms and then once you are done, to hear them tell you of the various symptoms they or others they know experienced when they were similarly afflicted.
4. ‘Do you know so-and-so died of it last week? Perfectly all right in the morning but by evening it was all over.’ Now, when you are in bed with this virus the last thing you want to hear are stories of this kind but here in Chennai these are just the kind of bedtime tales you are likely to hear.
5. ‘Are you checking saturation? That is the first indicator of when things begin to go wrong. And better have three or four gadgets – many show the wrong reading.’ Just the kind of reassurance you want.
6. ‘Have you tried rasam? These western-oriented people may laugh but let me tell you nothing to beat rasam. I drink a glass every day and thus far have remained immune to COVID. Our ancients knew what they were talking about.’
7. ‘I hope you have not informed anyone about getting COVID?’ MMM wonders as to why this keeps coming up in conversation. He imagines that to many COVID is more or less akin to what was known as clap in the old days.
8. ‘Just be positive’ – How else do you think a COVID afflicted person is supposed to be?
9. ‘What about others in the household? I hope they are isolating. Anyway they will get it.’ Such reassurance!
10. ‘How could you have not thought about aged people in your house before so carelessly going out and courting this virus?’ Yes, of course. MMM was just that heartless in the manner in which he set about it.
Once you have got COVID, you are bound to get calls from Chennai Corporation. The Man from Madras Musings too received them and overall he must admit that he looked forward to the daily calls. There was something very reassuring about the manner in which the concerned person consistently made the call each day and asked about your wellbeing. And when you reflect that you are just one person in a long line they need to call each day you need to admire their tenacity. But the process did not begin that harmoniously. The person who called first was not so well trained and this is how the conversation went –
‘Sir we have your COVID results with us and would like you to give your name and address.’
MMM – ‘Since you already have my details why do you want me to list them again?’
‘That is the procedure.’
MMM then went on to give all details, coughing in percussive interludes.
‘What is your phone number?’
MMM – ‘But you are calling me on it!’
‘Sorry sir, that is the procedure.’
MMM then listed the number.
‘Do you know if your residence falls in division X or Y or Z of the Corporation?’
MMM said he did not.
‘Why not sir?’
MMM – ‘I think it is the procedure for you to know.’
The voice then hung up; no doubt flummoxed with this response. But thereafter the other and more bedside-manner-blessed voice took to calling and all has since been well.
The Man from Madras Musings has nothing but praise for the way Chennai Corporation handles COVID patients, but he wishes there was a financial yardstick for determining who needs to receive free medication and who does not. MMM surely did not need to get a plastic cover with tablets, free of cost. He tried saying as much to the Corporation officials but was sternly informed that this was procedure.