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Counting the doses

“Sir, I saw you from a distance in the hospital last week. Must have come for the jab as I did, I suppose.”

I turned around, as the eager voice came from behind. The man’s face, or whatever was left uncovered by the mask, looked somewhat familiar; still, I could not place him. We were standing in the queue outside the eatery for buying snack parcels, with him right behind me, of course, at a pandemic-protocol-sanctioned, socially permissible distance.

“Which dose.?” his voice continued from behind the safety of the mask. “First or second?” he added after a pause, perhaps after finding me not responding to his earlier query.

I think he wanted to make life easier for me by giving me a simple choice.

I cleared my throat, not sure for what purpose, but ended up saying nothing; and slowly turned my face away with an apologetic smile, lest he felt offended.

But it is likely even that smile got smothered by my mask, and I must have appeared outright discourteous to him. But the man seemed to be made of sterner stuff.

“Which one you took…?” He looked quite determined to elicit a reply as he reframed his question, this time to target me on the vaccine instead of the dose.

I felt cornered and understood there is no escape. Weighing the options quickly, I thought it sensible to take up his first question to answer and also be truthful about it. In such tight situations, honesty looked the best, at least as a policy!

“Fifth,” I said matter-of-factly. My voice trailed off as I felt as embarrassed as I sounded remorseful. But heavily filtered by my double mask, my reply was barely audible even to me.

There was a stony silence behind, and I hoped my voice would have lost its way in the maze of my mask itself.

But the man’s auditory perception appeared quite keen, as he somehow managed to catch my word, and shot back in disbelief, “You mean, five…?”

His reaction was quite understandable; for, when the ‘universal possibility’ was only one or two at present, I had given him a very different, fantastic figure to digest.

I chose neither to confirm nor to look back at him.

“With thousands desperate and running around even for one dose, what audacity this fellow has to go for the fifth dose,” he must have thought and taken me to be some sort of an anti-national element!

“Are there vaccines also for, what they call black and white fungi?” His latest enquiry seemed innocuous, but I could sense its ominous portents. He was trying desperately to bridge the gap between the universally accepted one or two and my atrocious five, I could make out.

And an eatery boy came to my rescue that very instant.

“Sir, how are you?” the boy called out recognising me, as I stepped into his café. “Good to see you again. Sorry, it happened to you here in front of our restaurant. Hope you are better now and completed your course of injections.”

I acknowledged with a nod of my head.

“That is also vaccination, isn’t it? How many you had to take?”

“Five,” I replied confidently this time and also so loudly as to reach my voice to the one who was after me.

When in Rome, do as Romans do. And while under a pandemic, get jabbed only as fellow citizens get done!

I knew this too well, but obviously not the pooch that chose both, this raging pandemic and poor me to physically ‘cut its teeth,’ right here the other day!

vsrtriplicane@gmail.com


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Printable version | Sep 23, 2021 1:57:30 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/counting-the-doses/article35117900.ece

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