A day in the field, part 2
The sweltering heat had me closing off all the windows in a bid to keep the heat out. My cousin and I had stocked up on ice pops and I was sneaking yet another of the sweet sticky momentary relief for myself when I heard an announcement. It was common to hear announcements selling “Idiyappam”( a kind of flat rice noodles that is a replacement for bread). We would often mimic the tone with which the vendor announced his ware when he did arrive. However, this time the tone did not have the same sing-song quality to it and the idiyappam seller never came before 7:00 pm. This was definitely not him. And then I hear “Covvaxin”. While the rest of the words are incoherent from the fourth floor, my interest is piqued. I climb onto the windowsill in a bid to hear better. Downstairs, a group of kids is playing cricket. And in the middle of their make-do parking lot pitch, is a scooter with two men. I could see their ID tags from my spot. The pillion driver has a megaphone in his hand and he is announcing: “Covvaxin is available at the camp at the Urban Primary Health Center. Those of you who have not yet been vaccinated please come to the camp!”. He then proceeds to ask the kids if everyone in their houses has been vaccinated.
Much later, after I shifted to a hostel in another part of the city, I often heard the vaccine jingle playing in the early mornings. This jingle is a catchy four-liner that asks the people to please “get the vaccine”. I had come across it on the social media handle of the municipality and was quite intrigued by the video which alternated between medical professionals and citizens singing the slogan in the style of a music video. In this particular neighbourhood, autorickshaws fitted with speakers were used to patrol neighbourhoods blaring out the jingles. Most often this was during the mornings, right when the vaccination camps would be set up.
I found out that some workers would go house to house and convince people to get vaccinated. Some officials used the term “motivate” when referring to the duties of these workers. This was because it could mean both encouraging vaccinations by answering doubts or coercing them by letting them know of the increasing list of places that mandated vaccination for entry. These workers needed a lot of initiative. It is easy to give up because no strings are holding you to the job nor are there any incentives for good performance. They were given daily targets, though. This was usually an ambitious number of people that they had to bring to vaccination camps. The more I spend time around vaccination camps and communities that had been vaccinated, the more I came across these in-between workers taking up the “extra” tasks that were required for dealing with the new tasks of the city. In fact, there was quite a lot of variety among the miscellaneous workers who were hired on an ad-hoc basis for vaccinating the city.