‘Ohhh, I’m dying!’ That was me. On the speakerphone to the son. Beside me on the sofa, the husband was devouring WhatsApp messages as if they were the next coming of Game of Thrones. Neither eyelid flickered even infinitesimally at my proclamation. Expression remained bland as water.
The son was more in tune with my misery. Maybe it was blood being thicker than water. Maybe it was he got to endure me and my moans only two times a week. Whatever. ‘That bad, huh?’ he said finally. ‘But no one else…’
And that was the truth of the matter. The entire – elderly and extended – Jain family had been vaccinated against Covid-19. The first round, that is. A couple of us had sported a few of the symptoms. But I was a cut above. I had sported the entire range of symptoms on the list the NHS staff gave us at poke time. The ball of fire lodged in my left arm had made its way to the cotton balls lodged in my head. Add shivers, headaches, sore eyes, diarrhoea and a large pinch of assorted aches and pains, and there, I was sorted. In bed. For ten days. And when I got up, the headaches decided they had nowhere better to go.
‘But why you?’ asked the son. Good question. And I had a long – roundabout, as is my wont – explanation to offer. Requiring a bit of a diversion here.
I was brought up by a very girly – read drama queen – mum for the first ten years of my life. An example. When I was in the throes of induced labour, throwing up from one end and enema’d from the other, Amma sat in a corner of the room wringing her hands, crying, ‘This is the moment I’ve feared from the moment I was told I had a daughter! Dear Mother of God, please help my daughter, I’ll say ten rosaries!’ Gabbled prayers followed.
Even amidst all the various pot-shots that were being taken at my body at the time, I was completely enthralled. For twenty-three years, Amma had looked at me and thought of me being in labour? Awesome!
At age ten, I was sent to a convent. Sorry, make that boarding school in a convent. At eleven, by way of a digression caused by my taking communion when I shouldn’t have, I was confirmed as a Catholic. At twelve, I was convinced I wanted to become a nun. At well past fifty, all that remained of that ecclesiastical passion was a barter system with God, honed and polished over the years. ‘If you do this, I’ll do that’ sort of thing.
Revert to present times. Sometime during 2020, with all of us stuck in different time zones and varying levels of lockdown, I knocked on God’s door. For the usual barter. ‘Keep them safe,’ I said, ‘send it all my way.’ Apparently, God was at home.
There was dumbfounded silence at the Geneva end as I told the son this story. Then a sneery kind of snort from the husband: ‘Why don’t you tell him you had a cold when you got the vaccination?’
Yes, that too.