Contrary to the stereotypes of elderly people — wary, slow-of-gait and particularly vulnerable to misinformation about the vaccine — what emerged was a reverse of the depressing story one might have expected. The country’s senior folks have been rushing out full throttle, braving long queues, tech hiccups, and even camping from dawn at the gates of vaccination centres. ‘Fear of Missing Out’ or FOMO has taken on a whole new level among the elderlies. As the race for the jab intensifies, so does a sense of urgency for this ticket back to normal life.
“I wanted freedom from bondage!” exclaimed P Venkatraman, in jest after his “vaccine stroll-out” in Mumbai. Only half in jest though. The 64-year-old who took along a pack of 14 other sexagenarians and septuagenarians from a cardiac support group that he founded, explains: “We live with comorbidities and our families want us to stay locked at home. It’s a human need for us at this age to go out and socialise. Since the numbers were rising once again, I wanted to get the vaccination done as soon as possible.”
For Devjeet Bhuiya in Kolkata, getting an appointment within hours of the rollout was as good as “winning a lottery!” he bellowed. “I was so fed up with living in fear that I wasn’t even interested in the vaccine controversies. I was ready for anything as long as I could get on with life,” said the 72-year-old.
This all-consuming focus on the coveted shot has also been dripping with “stress” for those on the other side of the great divide. “Getting the vaccine is not a race, and when you get it is not an indicator of your worth. We will all get it, in time,” tweeted Chennai-based political analyst Swarna Rajagopalan, last week. She fears with every conversation orbiting around, ‘Did you get it?’ or ‘Did you make an appointment? might make her “too ill for the vaccine at this rate.”
But what do you say to G. Sethuraman, a 70-year-old retired industrialist in Hyderabad — who spent hours over the weekend obsessively refreshing the CoWin website for an appointment — when he says: “At this age, I understand impermanence and how fragile life is more than ever. And I don’t want it to end like this.”
Marathoner KR Chandran embraced competitive running at 70. Now 76, he says, “Standing in the line for two hours was no issue at all. We brought chai, dhokla… also entertained others waiting in line,” beamed Chandra. He is also relieved that he no longer needs to hide his surreptitious visits to the bank or the neighbourhood park from his anxious children living overseas.
Parenting the parents isn’t new but the pandemic certainly put a new twist on it. Mana Dey is awaiting her chance to join the jab club after her daughter told her to wait till the crowd lessens.