Ten days back we went to the place which in our small nuclear family we consider our pilgrimage, Hiranandani Gardens Powai. This place is where a lot of things started for us. This was where we found our first jobs after completing our MCA. This is where one evening while reflecting on the colors of sunset sitting in the open enjoying a coffee we decided “chal let’s get married” (after around 9 years of “going around”). Four years later we then came back to Dr. L. H. Hiranandani Hospital Powai for the delivery of the first child and subsequently another four years later for the second one. Of course we kept coming back for doctors visits, routine check ups or just like that as well but yeah that’s the reason Powai Hiranandani holds a special place in our hearts. Visits to Powai are not just hurried pop in and out affairs, we spend time exploring (now with children) and especially enjoy the lunch options that the place offers. So anyway we were there ten days back for vaccinations, Ria needed her first HPV jab. The idea was to go meet our dearest friend Dr. Anita Soni let her explain the do’s and don’ts to Ria, get the inoculation done, understand follow up schedule and then push off to one of the quaint eateries for a hearty meal. Pizza was the general consensus for the day.
Dr. Soni is the gynecologist who delivered both Ria and Ira. She was as emotional about the whole circle of life thing that the HPV vaccination meant for someone who she had delivered almost like yesterday. She was running a 102 degree F fever could barely speak, however true to her character she was manning her post keeping tabs on dilations. As we were getting done I noticed Dr. Bijal the pediatrician who had also been part of the team that delivered both the girls walking past. She waved we exchanged pleasantries and I said we’re coming over to meet you as well “haan aajao I’m in the next room only”. As per our custom Dr. Anita Soni wound up the session by pointing to the wall and showing Ira “see that’s your dida in my arms on the day she was born” and then noticing the awed expression on Iras face she points a little lower to another picture “and there that’s you, my football” (a picture in which she has Ira in a football hold from when we had gone for the 14 day checkup post delivery). Then we left. As we were getting out I said “let’s go talk to Bijal and find out about the MR vaccine that these kids are getting in school”.
Recently a circular had come home from school “The Government of India has decreed that all school children would get a vaccine to help fight Measles and Rubella, two deadly diseases. Your child will be vaccinated at school between 27th November and 6th December. The vaccination is mandatory as any child missing the vaccine will mean others will be at risk”… I have little to no faith in the schemes of this government especially so because ask any person about the vaccination and they will tell you “the intent is good”. My core belief system tells me to be very very vary of people with good intentions. Samuel Johnson so forcefully says “Hell is paved with good intentions” or more recently T. S. Elliot “Most of the evil in this world is done by people with good intentions.” or even more recently Vikram Chandra “God save us from people who mean well.” not that I need these people to explain to me why good intentions are the root cause of almost all suffering in this world. Take demonetization for instance… yeah the intent was great the execution was worse than potty, same for GST and so many more “schemes” that this government has so “good intently” foisted on the unsuspecting lab rats that we the citizens of this great country are to them. The intent is there however almost in each and every instance that is about all there is to it, “intent”. ATMs do not have boxes of the right size for new notes, LPG cylinders are subsidized but poor people need to buy expensive gas stoves and then also the cost of refills are prohibitive, toilets we have built all over the country however there is no water to keep them operational so even in cities like Mumbai these are locked up most of the time, 1.5 times MSP is promised to the farmer and yet you see farmers having to sell 963kilos of onions for a total profit of 33 rupees, GST rollout… ok let’s not go down that road I promise you it’s a dimly lit, shady dark sinister alley and no good can come of this trip…. let’s come back to Dr. Bijal the pediatrician.
So we ask her about the new MR vaccine that the government has introduced and which everybody in school is supposed to get. She said yes yes we have that here as well we can give it to them as well. I said are you sure it’s the same one the one which is mandatory not the routine one. She gives me a look which I often get from women and which most guys do not understand. She continues “yes we’re also empaneled and so the vaccine is available at Hiranandani hospital as well”. Well that’s a bonus! Since the day the girls were born Dr. Bijal has been the one who has given them all their injections. The comfort level they share with her is not something one can imagine them developing with the health workers who will be jabbing 1500 kids in the span of 2-3 hours on the designated day. Might as well get it done here and then skip the whole “sarkari” exercise (even now I get images of rusted needles and tobacco munching orderlies doing the inoculations when I think government scheme). The best part was that we were going to be right there monitoring everything from the sealed needle to the fact that Bijal was not chewing tobacco while jabbing the kids. The fact that a progrom had been devised to inject all the children in the country between the ages of nine months to fifteen years at school without parent supervision smacked, to me, of some sort of underhanded skulduggery. Why would you want to separate parents and kids for something as personal and crucial as inoculation. A child needs to feel comfortable while being injected with a vaccine same as a parent needs to feel comfortable and reassured that the apparatus being used is sterile and the person doing the job is both skilled and compassionate. Why would you want to do the inoculations in private? As if you were trying to hide something? So anyway we were happy that Bijal could do the inoculation and give us a certificate saying this is done so that the kids do not need to get the injections at school again. We queued up and bought the injections from the hospital pharmacy and then Bijal injected the kids. She has a very gory but nicely effective way of making the children watch the needle as it goes in, she says “that way it does not pain as much and they do not flinch”. It seems to work.
Done with the jabbity-jab-jab we headed to the area where all the eateries were and on general consensus parked in front of Pizza Express. New place for us but then it looked rustic and warm. The food was spectacular to say the least. Specially the freshly prepared mozzarella cheese on the platter that Sonali and I shared. We finished one round of deserts, then another and finally a third. I think we were about to go into a food coma when we decided we’re done let’s get out of here. Back home I drafted the letter for sending to school asking for exemption from inoculation and we walked to the stationary shop to print that as well as the proofs (medical certificate from Bijal and bills showing what we bought and what was administered). I mailed the whole shebang to the principal requesting her to kindly consider and exempt the kids. Next day the kids went and submitted the hard copies to their respective class teachers. Mischief managed.
Or so one would have thought. A set of parents did what they felt was the correct thing and the more comfortable thing to have done for their daughters. We spent close to ten thousand bucks on these vaccinations (including the cost of the meal considering it was more of an indulgence to take the edge off the jabs) but it was worth the trip as the kids is all there is for the most part for any parent. But no sir, the government will have none of this. Even if your child has received the inoculation a day prior it does not matter they have to be inoculated again by the governments own official jabber and no multiple doses will not cause any problems. This is what the school came back with. Essentially they could not help because they are expected to give the government a list of children who were not inoculated at school and then the government will take action against those parents.
At this point one would like to state that this is where as a country we have changed. Earlier it wouldn’t have been such a big deal. Earlier I would have been in control of my child’s inoculations. Not anymore. The Government has been going around threatening students in Mizoram “if you do not get vaccinated your exam results will be withheld”, in Assam “show cause notice has been issued to the Principal for asking parents to sign an indemnity bond that absolves the school of responsibility if the child shows adverse effects to the vaccination”. In today’s climate and with the sort of subtle yet brutal arm twisting that passes for governance your options are not really options they are death warrants. The Government today is a big bully “our way or the highway” being the import, “go to Pakistan” being the commonly used slogan. The consent form did come from school but it really had no concept of consent on it. All it allowed you to do was fill in your name, your kids name, class details and sign. It does not say “I will/have taken care of my kids the government may kindly divert this dose to some other kid who cannot afford it”. No sir. However there is a silver lining to this scheme. Like with all schemes, this scheme too was announced before things could be thought through and planned. Premature Ejaculation is a chronic problem with the ruling dispensation today that and a deep urge to create a spectacle. Kind of explains why everyone from the supreme leader to the supporters on the ground are such frustrated folks. So anyway the silver lining, after a lot of people made a noise about the whole concentrations campesque feel to this whole jabbing business it was decreed that parents would need to accompany the child to the school and stay with her for an hour while the doctors observed her for any adverse reactions and then take her home for the day. So yes this was finally a good thing to have done. Had this been done earlier as a parent I would not have been as worried about the who, what, where, why, when and the whole shadiness of this scheme would have been dispelled.
Later today, considering its already 0230hrs, the kids will be given their MR vaccinations, again. I will allow it not because I want them to be protected from the MR virus, that I have already ensured by getting them inoculated, but because I do not want the government knocking at my door needle in hand and AADHAR database on tap. Let us inject your kids or else we will turn off your families future by freezing everything, one switch and it’s all gone poof…. The state is all powerful…. as a parent today I feel I tried to do good by my daughters however because of my good intent tomorrow they will get an inoculation, again. Some will say “it’s just an injection get over it”…. yes that’s how it starts….