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Vaccine agenda

Manjula Padmanabhan | Updated on March 07, 2021

ILLUSTRATION: MANJULA PADMANABHAN

Muriel has put our names down on a list to get the Covid-19 vaccination because — hurrah! — the age limit has been lowered to 65. Just after two o’clock on Friday she calls to say, “We’re on! I’ll collect you in 15 fifteen minutes!”

The medical centre is just around the corner from the Creamery where we normally go for our weekly sessions of ice cream and chat. There are a couple of police cars in the parking lot, no build-up of crowds or harassed medical personnel. Up ahead, there are people in orange vests and badges, waiting at the entrance. All smiles as we draw near. “Go right in,” says a white-haired man, “take a ticket.”

Inside, there’s a smart young policewoman and a couple of health-workers in blue scrubs. Everyone’s wearing masks. “I’ll just do a temperature check,” says one of the health-workers, pointing a small hand-held device towards my forehead. “Ninety-seven-point-eight,” she reads off, to her partner writing notes in a register. Muriel has also been cleared and waits for me to join her.

We’re processed smoothly through to a huge airy space. There’s an atmosphere of controlled bonhomie. There seems to be an unusual number of tall, handsome young men in smart black uniforms circulating around the room. They’re firemen, it turns out. Unlikely as it may seem, the entire squad consists of guys with dazzling blue eyes, short spiky haircuts and a friendly-polite manner. “Are they real?” I wonder to myself. “Is it possible for so many attractive guys in smart uniforms to be wandering about in the same space? Am I succumbing to a lock-down-induced hallucination? Is it sexist to think they’re deadly cute?”

One of the deadlies enters my contact details into a computer. Then Muriel and I are directed to the tables where jabs are being administered. An older lady with wavy white hair and a kindly expression in her sky-blue eyes turns toward me, smiling under her mask. “I’m a retired nurse,” she tells me and says that she feels honoured to be part of the vaccination drive. When I tell her that she has very pretty eyes, she jokes about feeling glad that her scrubs that day are blue, too!

She writes down the batch number of my vaccine on a slip of paper, I pull down the neck of my blouse to expose my left arm and a moment later it is done. I have received my first dose of the Moderna vaccine. Ahead of me, Muriel is also standing up and ready to go to the final phase — waiting 15 minutes in a darkened auditorium, just in case there are post-vax symptoms. “This is the real test,” quips the guy (yet another deadly) who lets us in. “Can you survive our three short videos?” Muriel and I giggle like schoolgirls all the way through. Then we exit feeling unreasonably happy and drive away into the pale golden afternoon.

Manjula Padmanabhan, author and artist, writes of her life in the fictional town of Elsewhere, US, in this weekly column

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Published on March 07, 2021
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