To get vaccinated or not …

S Balakrishnan
Someone asked a very nasty question, “Don’t you write on current/topical issues? You mostly write recalling your rotten nostalgic memories or boast about your travels or write about anything by the cut & paste technique from the web. Why don’t you try something original?” Pricked by criticism, the writer in me debated what to write originally and topically. Pricked ! Yes, ‘Pricked’ it would be, I decided as my arm started aching after the pricking for Covid Vaccine.
Thanks to Modi Ji’s kindness, I was eligible for the vaccine as a senior citizen but I wanted some first hand experience from others. Let me learn from others’ mistakes, is my lofty principle.  There were many questions; the mind-boggling one was Covishield or Covaxin ? How effective were they and how would they differ in side effects; where to take it, and so on and so forth. News leaked that three relative couples had taken the shot. I was thrilled and also upset that they had not shared this first-of-its-kind experience in the WhatsApp Group. How secretive! But they were only too happy to share their vaccine experience when I rang them up. I cleared all my silly doubts to a vexatious extent that even before I could thank they banged the phone. Sorry, the pleasure of banging is possible only with landline phones; with mobile phone, you can either throw it down if you please or just disconnect it as if the coverage got snapped suddenly.  Never mind, I got what I wanted; that too from Chennaites. In such cases local information is more relevant; “Vocal for Local”, I follow Modiji. I was advised against booking through website as it was erratic, maybe due to mass login.
Meanwhile, my wife gave out the war cry, “Ladies first!” Though not a senior citizen she is a sugar patient, though not a very sweet person. As a diabetic she was eligible for vaccine (comorbid condition, in medical parlance). For your information, she is just lurking on the ‘sugar border’ for so many years just like the canny Chinese on our borders. But she can’t resist devouring sweetmeats and then rant “OMG! I am on the border”. I was happy to let her be the first guinea pig in our family.  As a teacher I would be the first to get vaccinated, our daughter jumped into the fray. I was doubly happy. Our maid, a BP patient (actually she is the cause for our BP), gave a tip about the vaccination centre. We applied the ‘Thousand Grains of Sand’ Chinese spy ring method to gather information about the vaccine process. Guided by Google Map, my daughter led me to the nearby Urban Primary Health Centre of Greater Chennai Corporation. To our surprise the UPHC was spank & clean as it was just constructed. But they had not received the relevant instructions regarding her teaching NGO. So the chance slipped to my wife who jumped in joy ! Oh, don’t be scared, that is just a phrase. As pre-celebration she gulped a burfi. She was lucky to get Covaxin dose and I felt assured that I could also boldly take Covaxin. After the half an hour mandatory waiting when we approached the kind nurse for permission to leave she just shooed us away. So we swallowed the customary Tamil bidding “poyittu varrom” (shall come again) and left without a word. On the way my wife suddenly pretended of dizziness and specifically desired pomegranate juice. After all, had she not offered to be the first volunteer ! Also, the vaccination was free of cost at the health centre.
We, the clever family, schemed to get vaccinated one by one after a few days break to take care of each other in case of side effects. So, after a few days of no major side effect for my wife, except sleepiness which is a permanent one, the daughter plunged next. Her enquiries with some private hospitals proved futile. She finally succeeded in getting Covaxin at the Urban Peripheral Hospital. She instantly shared the success story on Insta and other social media and got likes.  Her ulterior motive was to travel to Assam armed with double-vaccinated certificate, to spend her summer vacation. But the second wave of Corona that is sweeping across the country had derailed her plan to entrain to Assam.
The third in line was my mother, a very senior citizen of 90 years. Considering various factors we decided to take her to a private hospital. Contrary to their telephonic conversation, they directed us to their branch. While I was fuming about their rerouting, the scene at the branch hospital made me erupt like a volcano. Gathered there were hundreds of ‘eager’ people to get vaccinated against Covid but forgetting all Covid precautions! No mask or mask below the nose or at throat like a chocker necklace. And no social distancing; they were falling over one another to just get the registration form. I was so scared of the scene that we hijacked an auto and fled from there lest Corona catch us. But the scene was a real promo material for vaccine! We went straight to the same PHC and she was given, hold your breath, Covaxin-third time lucky in the family. She complained that the kind nurse was a bit unkind and no cotton was given. Just grin and bear the pain and insult, I ‘comforted’ her ! We solemnly waited for half an hour and left quietly, remembering the previous ‘shooing away’ experience. Only fools repeat the same mistake, I told myself. Note this Quote for your future use.
When at last my turn came, I went with a sick man look with beard and all to earn pity as an old gentleman. Shhhhhh …! A baby warned from the poster to keep silent. So I did not even whimper when the shot was given and simply wiped my tears with the cotton bit kindly given by the nurse. I was shot with Covishield and I thought beggars can’t be choosers. People were very reluctant to take Covishield and the nurses had a real tough time convincing them. But I was very bold as my cousins had earlier been experimented with Covishield with only minor side-effects. I pretended to have ‘irritability side-effect’ for a day and took the golden chance to boldly bark at my wife.
Where to take the 2nd shot? Should we again meet the kind nurses at the same PHC or try another centre to encounter a new set of kind nurses? I am more nervous than before. To celebrate double dhamaka vaccination, I plan to enjoy a movie on the BIG screen after more than one year but I am sure my wife would say “Go but don’t return home”. The ‘prickly’ story is not going to end here as we may all keep on needing booster doses as Corona virus keeps on taking new avtars, more avtars than even Lord Vishnu’s Dasavatars (Ten Reincarnations).
The author can be reached at [email protected] / 9840917608 Whatsapp