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I kept calling the hospital daily. What I had feared was coming true. There were no vaccines available. They wouldn’t know when the stock would arrive.
Today I was reading Kamala Das’s poem ‘My Mother at 66’ and I had a big lump in my throat. Normally I should be crying but I refuse to let those tears come out because they will weaken me, dull my senses, and cloud my thinking.
It has been almost a year and a half since I sat next to my father discussed politics animatedly. It feels like eons since I hugged my mother, smelt her perfume, clasped her delicate hand in my hand. It has been months since I tasted her cooking. I miss her scolding even. I do not know when I will see her next. The daily video calls are merely two-dimensional.
The pandemic has changed the life we knew as normal, perhaps forever. There was a sliver of hope on the horizon as 2020 ended, of having beaten the terrible disease. Vaccines were around the corner and the economy was finally looking up. It was just a matter of time before I woke up in my parents’ home.
All those simple dreams seem so distant now.
Like many, who have disregarded the pandemic, I should have taken my chances and visited my parents. Only, I did not have the courage. What if my inability to be strong or logical got them infected? They are both septuagenarians with co-morbidities. I couldn’t afford the risk.
So we all waited patiently for the powers-to-be to take their own sweet time over permissions while the rest of the world rolled out vaccines. In case we voiced our discontent, we were silenced by the believers! The government knows best, we have the indigenous serums, unlike others. We were going to be the world providers.
Finally, after the vaccine rolled out in India too, came the hesitancy to take it. My parents too were skeptical. They wanted to wait and watch. It was a daily war over the cyber waves to convince them, to make appointments, to take the first shot, and become safer.
My parents managed to do so after the initial struggles with Arogya Setu/Cowin app. There were a few scary hours of after-effects of the first shot but we all heaved a sigh of relief.
Tripping with happiness, I could finally visualize myself making the journey home. I dared to hope and dream on.
And then, as they say, shit hit the ceiling and we bloody lost the plot! In just a fortnight, we have rapidly descended into a never-ending nightmare! As the epidemic exploded, India saw record-breaking infections. Hospitalizations and deaths hit exponential numbers!
Unbelievably, massive electoral gatherings, religious congregations, social soirees, you name it, we saw it!
The lack of accountability, the ineptitude of rapid decision making, the arrogance of invincibility are the reasons for the mess (that is such a delicate way of saying!) we currently bear.
Obviously, I was panicking. I wanted my parents to get their second shot faster. Again this was a fight. The experts have been saying, a 6-8 weeks gap between Covishield vaccine shots is ideal for a better anti-body generation in one’s body.
My father is a very sincere man. He wouldn’t take his shot a day earlier than 6 weeks. So I booked the slot for them accordingly. In the same hospital where they had taken the first shot. This was in the first week of April when the Covid numbers were around 50k.
By this time, already Cowin wasn’t giving slots for a second shot. Arogya Setu was our only tool.
I still had a terrible feeling about all this. I kept calling the hospital daily. What I had feared was coming true. There were no vaccines available. They wouldn’t know when the stock would arrive. And this was a huge corporate hospital I’m talking about.
Just a day before their appointment, after multiple calls, a tired-out voice answered. Yes, the stock had arrived that day and no they weren’t publicizing it. All the pre-booked appointments stood canceled. They had a plan though.
If my parents wanted a shot, they should arrive at the hospital around 8 am, wait till the tokens opened at 8:30 am, manage to take a token after jostling with others, wait for the vaccination process to begin at 9 am, and end at 9:30 am. Just imagine the odds of that happening, that too to a septuagenarian couple.
I pleaded with the voice. My parents stay alone, thousands of miles away from us. In this current situation, the token method is very risky. They could get infected while trying for a vaccine.
The voice said bluntly, ‘Tokens are the only way!’
So my parents chose the safer option. No vaccine for now!
Can you imagine the anger in our hearts? This, when my nephew aged 16, had a drive-through vaccination in the U.S.?
I cannot blame the hospital, they were splendidly organized for the first shot. I cannot also console myself by saying ‘look at the suffering around you!’
So who failed us?
Isn’t the answer obvious?
We failed us!
With our collective disdain for social good and well-being, with our adjusting to whatever was thrown at us, with our non-questioning the terrible descent, with our going with the flow attitude.
When we stopped questioning and started following blindly, we gave them brutal power. Politics and religion are a dangerous cocktail. It may be heady in the beginning, but the burden of failing the nation has to sit heavily on the chest.
Like Macbeth, someone will have the blood of the innocent on their hands.
Like Macbeth, they wouldn’t wash it off
Meanwhile, each day gets heavier for normal law-abiding ones like me, who will continue to wonder, ‘why me, what was my fault?’
I go to bed with a fervent prayer, with the mobile next to me.
I often wake up at night, checking my phone.
My vigil it seems will continue!
Image source: Shishirpal on pixabay
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Anupama Jain is the author of
* ‘When Padma Bani Paula', listed as 'One of the
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