Sachit Mehra, General Manager, East India Company

Sachit Mehra, General Manager, East India Company

Getting vaccinated is the most important thing everyone can do right now. It’s fast and easy. Vaccination is extremely important for those of us who have underlying medical conditions or are vulnerable members of our community. But most of all, it’s going to help all of us return to normal. Those are the reasons why I chose to be vaccinated.

My family has been in the restaurant business for 50 years. I am the third generation at the helm of The East India Company. We, as a family, chose to close our Winnipeg location on March 16, 2020, earlier than provincial rules. By virtue of owning two restaurant locations in Ottawa, we saw what was coming in Quebec and Ontario and we wanted to be proactive here in Winnipeg. As is the principle within our own family, the health and safety of our guests and employees is always paramount, so we felt closing the restaurant was the safest thing to do.

Since then, takeout and delivery have sustained the restaurant. We’re fortunate to still be in business and that we didn’t have to lay off a single full-time, permanent staff member. Many of our staff have been with us for decades and we see them as more than just employees; they are family.

Normally, I travel to visit my two brothers, who manage our Ottawa locations, once a month. However, I haven’t been able to do that since the onset of the pandemic. It’s hard to express how difficult it is to be separated from loved ones—I haven’t been able to see my nieces, nephews, sisters-in-law and brothers in person for over a year. But I know many of us understand and share this feeling.

In my personal life, I sit on 11 boards. They’ve all gone virtual. I can honestly say that after the pandemic, I’ll be the first person to uninstall Zoom from my computer! I miss the human connection that comes with in-person meetings.

Our Canadian culture is not defined by takeout and watching Netflix. Our culture is defined by our historical sites, and places where we meet and gather—such as special events at the RBC Convention Centre, or at the new Qaumajuq art gallery, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights—or even a restaurant like mine, where we showcase 400-year-old pieces of art. These are places where people can meet, build relationships and grow.

Restaurants are places where people celebrate, make dates, see friends and family. They are places where people go when they reach a crossroads or mark an accomplishment. I miss those moments—the laughter from a table of friends, the excitement of a child opening a gift at a birthday party, the sweetness between a couple celebrating their anniversary—from our restaurant when we were able to share and celebrate special occasions with our visitors.

If you’re a little hesitant about getting vaccinated, by all means, ask questions. Do the research that you need to do. The vast majority of science points to a healthy, safe vaccination process. I believe vaccination will lead us back to normal life, a life where we celebrate together again.

After COVID, I’m looking forward to shaking somebody’s hand again.  It’s so simple but important. And when things get back to normal, I’m looking forward to enjoying a night out with my family at a restaurant, either mine or another—we have great restaurants in Manitoba, and we can’t wait to serve you again in person!


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Renata Meconse with daughter Ava, age 10

Renata Meconse with daughter Ava, age 10

During the initial vaccine rollout in early 2021, Ava asked, “When will kids be able to get their vaccine?”

We cautiously went through 2021 waiting for Ava to be eligible for her vaccination. That day came later in November 2021. Before getting her shot, Ava and I read the fact sheet about children and vaccines. We talked about it and planned what we would do that day. She normally feels apprehensive about needles, so we talked about that, too. We talked about how she had gotten needles before for blood tests and other vaccines. We also talked about why this vaccine is important and her choice in getting it.

The day of her vaccination, we made sure Ava wore a short-sleeved shirt. As expected, she was still a little nervous about the needle itself. I held her hand and she felt better with me being beside her. Before we knew it, the doctor had given her the vaccine and she was done! Afterwards, we went for ice cream. She stayed home for the rest of the day and we monitored her. She felt a slight soreness in her arm that evening but by the next day she was fine.

For Ava, she didn’t only want to protect herself, she said she wanted “To protect Grannie.” We live in a multigenerational household and my mom, who turns 81 this year, was getting out of the hospital in late December. It was great that we could get our entire household vaccinated before she got home.

I’m so glad we did get vaccinated as COVID did hit our household. My family members who tested positive with rapid tests isolated while they awaited their PCR tests and we all did our best to minimize interactions with each other. They were isolated in their rooms. I brought food and other things they needed to minimize in-person contact. We sanitized the washroom after each use, washed hands frequently, wore masks and did everything to keep a distance from each other. I am thankful to share that the members of my household who tested positive (and were fully vaccinated) got through COVID without serious symptoms or hospitalization. Also, I am very thankful that Ava and I did not get the virus. Knowing that Omicron spreads very easily and quickly, we are glad to have had the vaccines to help protect us.

As we move into 2022, with the Omicron variant spreading, I feel safer knowing that our family is vaccinated. Ava will soon be getting her second shot and other children her age will also be getting theirs. We look forward to doing more things with other people as the weather gets warmer. And once it’s safer, we’d like to travel and go to gatherings. Ava loves to dance at powwows and I love to watch her. Last summer, Ava was able to dance, but a lot of powwows were cancelled or limited in size. We look forward to that time when our communities can gather, see each other in person, hug, laugh, and kids can play together and dance. 

When Ava was vaccinated, it was an opportunity for her peers to talk about what it felt like. I encourage young people to talk to their friends and peers about getting vaccinated. As we go through this pandemic, we need to talk to each other, encourage and support one another. 

We were so glad when Ava’s question was finally answered—now is the time for kids to have their turn at getting vaccinated.

Even though COVID-19 hit our household, we were able to fight it and everyone was able to overcome it. Thinking about all of our generations and how we need to protect one another, I encourage youth and young adults to get vaccinated. There are vaccine clinics you can go to get your vaccine done quickly and in friendly environments. You can also go to pharmacies or your doctor’s office. 

If you have questions before deciding, read from credible sources and ask at the vaccine clinic. Get immunized to protect your siblings, cousins and little ones who are too young to be vaccinated. 

Be a role model for your friends in following health measures that can protect our grandparents, parents, aunties and uncles. If someone in your family hasn’t been vaccinated, support and encourage them to get theirs, go together. We all have a role to play in protecting our family, our community and each other.

Be kind and take care of each other ♥  

During the initial vaccine rollout in early 2021, Ava asked, “When will kids be able to get their vaccine?” We cautiously went through 2021 waiting for Ava to be eligible for her vaccination. That day came later in November 2021. Before getting her shot, Ava and I read the fact sheet about children and vaccines. […]

Scott & Abigail Larson with daughter Nala, age 6

Scott & Abigail Larson with daughter Nala, age 6

We chose to vaccinate our daughter Nala, who is 6 years old, to keep her safe but also because we have new babies, elderly and at-risk people in our extended families. While we weren’t too anxious about the risk of Nala herself ending up in the ICU, the bigger issue was reducing transmission to those who might get severely ill. We read the report from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization and we clearly understood that there are very low risks associated with giving the COVID vaccine to kids.

Scott & Abigail Larson with daughter Nala, age 6

When Nala got her first vaccine dose she was thinking about PJ Masks because it was a prize at the immunization clinic. About the experience with the needle, she said, “It didn’t hurt. I thought the needle would be big and sharp. It wasn’t really sharp, but it had to be a little sharp to get into my skin.” Nala didn’t have side effects and went to her regular gymnastics and swimming classes two days later.

Nala looked forward to showing off that she got the shot because she was the first in her class to get vaccinated. We filmed Nala getting her shot and shared the video with family so the other cousins her age would see that it wasn’t such a bad experience. After all, if little Nala can do it, so can they! 

We have four children in school. Our 16-year-old is at-risk of COVID symptoms due to her asthma. She feels safer now that Nala and her 11-year-old brother have had their first vaccine dose. Our kids have been good, ensuring everyone in the family is following the public health rules. This year we’ve gotten fewer letters home from school about COVID exposures, fewer direct contacts with COVID cases, and haven’t had to get tested as often. We believe it makes a difference that teachers are vaccinated and that parents are keeping their kids home if they’re sick. 

Abigail works as a midwife in a hospital and has seen nurses from her department being moved to the ICU. We know there is a huge burden on the health system, and there needs to be space left in the hospital for those who are immuno-compromised and experience severe COVID symptoms. Now that kids age 5 to 11 are eligible to be vaccinated we think they should be. We completely understand why people might be anxious or stressed about it, but we would encourage parents to think about the greater good. 

Scott & Abigail Larson with daughter Nala, age 6

We chose to vaccinate our daughter Nala, who is 6 years old, to keep her safe but also because we have new babies, elderly and at-risk people in our extended families. While we weren’t too anxious about the risk of Nala herself ending up in the ICU, the bigger issue was reducing transmission to those […]

Carlo and Heidi Cecilio with daughter Zooey, age 8

Carlo and Heidi Cecilio with daughter Zooey, age 8

We’re from the Philippines and we arrived in Winnipeg in February 2021. When we came to Canada, Zooey, our 8-year old daughter, had to go through a swab test for COVID-19 and catch up on other immunization shots. Because of all of that she was a little more experienced with what to expect when getting her COVID-19 vaccine. Before that, she would cry or do evasive moves to avoid the needle. 

When we took Zooey for her first COVID-19 vaccine dose, we were so proud of her bravery. She said, “It hurts a little, but it’s okay.” It was nice to be able to distract her with cookies which took her mind off the needle.

One of the main reasons we wanted Zooey to get vaccinated is because we’ve lost family and friends to COVID-19, including Zooey’s uncle and godfather. We don’t want Zooey or anyone else in our family to go through a loss like that. It’s been a tough year. 

Initially, when the COVID-19 vaccines first came out we worried about its safety and if it would work. After reading more information about the vaccines, we felt we could trust the science and Health Canada, and didn’t worry about it anymore. 

Zooey didn’t have any side effects from her first COVID vaccine dose. We monitored her the first night and kept putting a hand on her forehead to check her temperature, but she was just acting like a normal kid—busy playing! There was no redness or soreness on her arm either.

I know COVID has had a big impact in Canada, but I think it’s worse in the Philippines. We don’t post photos on social media of Zooey on playgrounds or playing in the snow—not because we don’t want to, but because we know our friends in Manila have to keep their kids home a lot because of COVID. Their kids don’t go out as much there as they do here.

The first time Zooey was invited to a playdate in Winnipeg, we said no. We were wondering, are the parents vaccinated? Have they been exposed to COVID-19? After her first shot, we’ll feel more confident if she goes on a playdate, and we’ll feel even better when she gets her second shot. We plan to go to movie theatres and eat in a mall food court. Zooey is looking forward to being able to remove her mask more often, because it can get in the way when she’s playing.

We’re both photographers and we love to travel. Zooey is starting to make her own journal, take videos and photos. We look forward to getting to know Winnipeg and Manitoba. The COVID vaccine will give us more confidence to explore more of Canada.

We’re from the Philippines and we arrived in Winnipeg in February 2021. When we came to Canada, Zooey, our 8-year old daughter, had to go through a swab test for COVID-19 and catch up on other immunization shots. Because of all of that she was a little more experienced with what to expect when getting […]

Additional Resources

Learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine from official sources.