The other day I was watching an old Tamil cinema on cable television along with a friend of mine for whom any movie produced after 1965 is no movie at all. This film had a robust and cheerful heroine who, to borrow my grandmother’s words, was ‘looking well-fed and happy like a calf in the palace’, which in the common parlance would mean being a tad obese. The lady, through a judicious application of her histrionics was a scene stealer those days when she reigned the tinsel empire. She was intimidatingly filling up the screen space on my television while on tight close-ups, was hogging it considerably at mid long shots edging out others and moved as a considerable mass of black and white in long shots, as the story unfolded.
The movie was half way through and there was this enchanting scene of her dancing on the embankment of a huge reservoir and then climbing down the steps of the massive concrete barrage pretty fast for her girth, lip synchronising all the while a medium paced song extoling the virtue of the Indian women.
‘Awesome; what a ravishing beauty she is’, my friend was screaming in ecstasy as he sat glued to the TV. I grunted in agreement munching a fistful of pop corn from a huge plastic bucket and watching the damsel dancing on the dam. My stare was focussed more specifically on a specific region of her anatomy, namely her ample arms covered inadequately by the shortest sleeved pink blouse with an enchanting lase work she wore.
However, I was not into a silent celebration of the human female body but was only glaring at the two near circular scars, rather marks the size of an one rupee coin on the screen heroine’s left arm, immediately below where the short sleeve of her blouse ended. I sat fascinated by those vaccination marks indelibly etched on the supple flesh of the lady with a radiant smile.
They were the representative socialist beauty marks adorning almost every arm, from the Beauty Queen to the municipal conservancy worker, the landlord to the landless, the wandering ascetic to the small traders, throughout the the country, half a century ago.
If you think vaccinating is an ordinary humdrum job, you are pertinently wrong. I vividly remember the vaccination camps I had witnessed and participated in the sensational sixties as a primary school student and can emphatically say that like every good job, it comes with its own rhyme, rhythm and reason.
It all would start with a fatigued ‘four wheel drive’ jeep with the oblong Government emblem drawn on the sides and at the back, inching through the potholed road that has not seen a decent coat bitumen for ages, towards our small town, quite early in the morning.
As it would approach the milestone at the municipality limits, the jeep mysteriously would develop a technical snag, coming to a laboured halt moaning in distress. The local elders with tucked up dhotis partially covering their loosened and dangling loin cloth and with a long thick lighted Trichi cigar precariously held on their lips would be walking briskly, patting themselves loud on their posterior with an intention of aiding and abetting a smooth session of answering their call of nature at the largest open toilet under the sky.
They would be the first few to observe the arrival of the vaccinators and would help giving the jeep a collective push forward in an attempt to revive the engine.
[A few youngsters hanging around would also volunteer to participate in the proceedings at that stage.
(await publication in the print version of The Wagon Magazine, in April 2017)