“Hello, Sohini Madam?”
“Yes, speaking. Who is it?”
“Madam, this is Sameer from Big basket. I had brought your order.”
“Oh yes, I have been expecting you. Have you reached? Should I come down at the apartment gate?”
“No madam, actually some men have stopped me from entering your colony. You will have to come at the colony entry near the temple.”
Sohini rushed to her balcony. The temple was visible clearly from here. She could see a delivery boy on a scooty standing in the shade of a tree and some men looking towards him.
Reluctantly, Sohini decided to go and collect her order from there.She did not want to miss this order as she had already gone through much for this. Even after she had continued her duty for 11 hours against an 8-hour shift, the shift in-charge had taunted that he could not have imagined himself asking his boss for leaving ‘early’ just to collect groceries. His last comment, though not addressed to her directly, had stung Sohini bitterly- “Do these new joinees really consider themselves as Doctors?”
On her way to the colony entry, Sohini recollected that a few days back she had seen some locals barricading the entry road with bamboo logs and ropes. Afterward, she used to see those persons regularly while commuting but they did not bother her. So she never knew why these people kept standing in a group especially during Lock-down. She started to understand their purpose now.She could also realise now why she could not see any vegetable or fruit vendor in the colony these days.
After the delivery boy left, Sohini turned towards the voice addressing her.
“So you are Dr.SohiniHalder that delivery boy was looking for. Madam ji, why do you call these persons to our colony? They will bring corona here also. We are standing here for protecting you but you people are so careless.”
Sohini could not stop herself from retorting. “Do you know that Home Ministry has allowed home delivery of essential items during lockdown? Even where an area is sealed or is declared as a Hotspot, the preferred way is Home Delivery of essentials.”
“Seems like you read newspapers too much, Madam. Then haven’t you read that a delivery boy of some Pizza outlet recently infected so many families? It is due to so called educated people like you that our country got this virus in the first place. Now you don’t allow us to prevent its spread. Do you even understand the gravity of this Pandemic?”
It was too much for Sohini. She replied – “No sir, I do not understand. After all, I am just a doctor.” She then asked the person who he was. In response, he pointed towards an advertisement board. The name of a local political leader was written there. Sohini understood that it would be futile to argue with the men of the advertisement board.
On her way back, she could just lament over the fact that how some people could bring their politics in everything. If the police was not stopping the delivery boy, who were they to stop him! And what a logic they had – Home Delivery was not safe, but going to shops for buying the items was! And if they were bent on policing the entry and exit, why did they stop only the delivery boys, vegetable hawkers but allowed others to come and go freely? And how could they themselves make a crowd when the government prohibited grouping during the lock-down?
Finding no easy answers, Sohini left these thoughts go away when she reached her apartment. She had to cook. She was very hungry.
Next day was to be Sohini’s first off day in three weeks. She wondered how hectic weeks these had been of late. She had been made in-charge of the Emergency Unit in her hospital. Even though she was not in the COVID ward, the increasing pressure of CoVID patients denied doctors even their weekly off. When her shift was about to end, she heard a commotion in the corridor.She peeked through the window curtain. The hospital staffs were carrying a teenage girl on a stretcher and yelling at her relatives to stay put at the door.There seemed to be some head injuries to the girl. One person wept and shouted – “Please save my daughter”. Sohini seemed to recognise that person whose daughter she was now going to attend to. She had interacted with him at the colony entry gate that day.
After a few weeks of treatment, the girl was getting discharged. Her father was present to take her home. While signing on discharge papers, the father’s hands stopped abruptly. The name of the doctor mentioned on the discharge paper disturbed him from somewhere within.
It was another off day for Sohini. She was sitting in the balcony treating herself with what she loved most – her Cappuccino and one of the Murakami novels. This time she had scheduled her grocery delivery on her off day. After sometime, she looked over to the balcony railing towards the colony entry. A delivery boy was talking to the men standing there. She got up, knowing she’ll have to go there to collect it. However, she was surprised to see that the delivery boy was coming towards her apartment on his scooty.
She went to the apartment gate to receive her order. After she got her order, she asked the delivery boy – “did anyone stop you from entering the colony?”
“Yes mam, they had stopped me at first. Then one person among them asked me where I was going. I told I had to deliver an order in your name at the Silver Nest Apartments. Then that person asked the others to let me go.” – the delivery boy replied.
Sohini said nothing. She had seen from the balcony. She knew who the person was.