Behind The Mask

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August 11th, 2009 Praveen Bose

Its mask, mask everywhere. A friend on a visit to a top hospital waiting in the OPD for seeing the doctor for the mandatory check-up called me up, speaking in a voice that reflected fear and frustration: “This place is so crowded, what if someone has the swine flu. An, I am kept waiting here for so long. I could definitely contract something.”

The crowding in hospitals is no longer a strange phenomena. No matter how many hospitals, the much of the general population remains underserved or untouched by good quality healthcare.
The media is doing quite a bit, it seems, in building the fear psychosis about swine flu. And, it may not be long before we may stop going out. Or, even being ‘open’.

I am reminded of the advice that my parents had given me when in school. “Do not talk to strangers.” Now, it must be “don’t breathe when near strangers.”

I was in for a surprise yesterday. I had been to the friendly neighbourhood pharmacy. The pharmacist, Rakesh, and his helps, i.e. 1 + 3 were all wearing the now popular green surgical mask. No sure how to react at the sight, I broke into a laughter. But, the four of them didn’t seem to be amused.

Rakesh said in a stern voice. “I don’t know what is breathed out by the people who come for medicines nowadays. I have to take care or I will contract the germs they may harbour and give it to everyone in the family. So, I better be safe than sorry.”

He didn’t stop at the explanation though. “Please buy one of these masks. It is only Rs 10. You go out, and use public transport. It is absolutely necessary for you.” That’s some businessman. I still remain a non-believer. The next time he may convince me if I step into the pharmacy.

And, perhaps the next time one walks into a hospital you may have to walk in with a surgical mask to ensure your immunity is not overpowered by some powerful enough disease-causing germs. I hope the next time my friend walks into a hospital, she may be advised to buy a mask from the hospital’s pharmacy.

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