Turbulent times- that’s where we are living in! It almost feels like a flight leading to neverland that has been in turbulence since December 2019 and all of us are confused passengers in it. While 2021 has ‘brought in a fresh ray of hope’ as the government of India announcement that has been automatically set as everyone’s caller-tune by default tells us, we still are not sure about the actual efficacy of the vaccines.
No, this is not an anti-government propaganda generated by some left-wing oriented millennial – the problem is genuine and it is real, very real! While I was skeptical about getting ‘jabbed’ from the very beginning, on the continued pestering by friends and family, I took my mother to the Gauhati Medical College Hospital, Bhangagarh to get her first shot of the vaccine. While I parked the car and waited inside, for someone said it would take some time as our token number was 147 and only token number 80 had gone inside the vaccination room, for some reason, I became paranoid to even step out of the car. I looked around and there were people and people everywhere, some without masks, some sticking to one another in the queue, some sitting in a jam-packed waiting room, while some sleeping on the pavement right next to the vaccination center.
My eyes moved from one corner of the place to another, and I suddenly felt a sudden chill travelling down my spine. I looked at the sun and the sky and the world below. While my mother sat in surprise, I turned the car and returned home. I could not let her get down. I simply did not have the courage to step out into that bizarre world that was seemingly full of germs. It appeared to me like the breeding ground of the virus! I imagined the crown-shaped virus with its fangs and teeth taking the shape of a monster and rushing towards me. As if it would engulf me into a painful smothering embrace and I would succumb to it. As if I would never see the sun and the sky again if I stayed even a moment longer. I literally sped off the car, as if running away from a graveyard full of potential zombies and viruses.
I knew that it might be dangerous for my mother or me to survive without getting the vaccine shots, but I was certain that we would definitely catch the virus if we entered into the crowd desperate on getting the shots. It all seemed like an illusion. While I was scared sitting inside the car and observing the situation around, after I came back, I felt bad for us and for those people who were perhaps thinking that the vaccine would save them. What pained me was that in spite of the apparent better condition of government hospitals and dispensaries, it is still a nightmare to enter the premises of the GMC and other such hospitals. The vaccination center itself did not have anyone who was actually supervising social distancing and proper cleanliness of the area. People were swarming to save their lives, ironically inviting the virus by not observing social distancing and other protocols.
My skepticism was in a way justified as to why most people I knew who got vaccinated were still contracting the virus at quite a high rate, some of them even succumbing to the disease! The situation at the vaccination center explained it all!
We all are talking about the initiatives taken by the government to contain the virus. But the efficacy of the virus itself will inevitably plummet if proper steps are not taken to curb the crowding of people at the vaccination camps. Proper steps have to be taken to keep the camps clean and less dreary, so that people like me do not get paranoid to even step into the area.
Another cause of concern is the unexplained curfew hours. Reducing the time of opening shops and other places of public gathering actually creates an aggravated sense of panic and ultimately more people gather at the same time in those places. Curfew is not helping the situation ease at all, though it might be worsening it.
Ours is an unruly populace. We panic, we push each other and cause more trouble to ourselves and others in the name of getting vaccinated or panic buying. We all are undoubtedly living in turbulent times, but the logic behind unhygienic vaccination centers and unrealistic curfew hours are difficult to comprehend!
Swaswati Borkataki teaches history at the AssamRoyal Global University.