For nearly a year, the only reason many looked in newspapers or at TV screens was for news of the vaccine, and finally when the vaccine is ready to roll out, there is a waning of interest. “What’s the problem?” I asked an old man who had actually rolled up his sleeves many months before and was now rolling them down and had his arms in defensive knots, “Why this reluctance for the vaccine?”
“Rumours!” he whispered, beckoning me to a corner of the tea shop where we were sipping tea.
“What rumours?” I asked puzzled.
“That I will have to give my allegiance either to the Central government or the state rulers!”
“What?” I shouted incredulously.
“Yes,” he said, looking over his shoulder, “Both the centre and the state will tell me I am alive because of them, and I don’t know who I will believe, so I’d much rather not take the vaccine, and not have to make a choice!”
I sipped my tea in silence and stared at his full sleeved shirt.
“I don’t like to be obligated to anyone!” he whispered and I nodded that I understood, “Even if you buy me tea, I will buy you tea the next day!”
“Vaccine is here! Vaccine is here!” shouted a man at the entrance of the tea shop, “Centre says that all tea drinkers will be given the first shot free!”
“And what does the state say?” asked my reluctant friend.
“Pencil thin syringe needle, with attractive interns who will hold your hand, so you won’t feel the jab!” shouted another man at the entrance.
“See I told you,” said my new friend, “These offers are coming in everyday!”
“But nobody in the tea shop is going out for their shot!” I said wonderingly, “I wonder why?”
“We have all decided not to give our allegiance to the centre or state!” said a man who I realized was the brother of the tea shop owner.
“There’s a risk you could all fall sick!” I said gravely.
“Oh no we won’t!” said the brother of the tea shop owner beckoning to the owner his brother to join the table.
“Why?” I asked as the tea shop owner joined the conversation.
“Because of my tea!” said the owner beaming. “It has built absolute immunity to the virus!”
How?” I asked looking at my glass.
“The municipality water I use is filled with bacteria!” he said, very matter of fact. “The tea has been adulterated with every bit of dirt under the sun! My kitchen’s cleanliness has never been monitored by the authorities…”
“You’re saying?” I asked.
“That our authorities have already provided us with immunity! So, who wants the vaccine?”
“The only problem is,” moaned my new friend, ‘we don’t know to whom we owe this favour; the state or centre?”
And as India’s covid cases go on the wane, nobody knows who to thank..!