n January 2007 my partner Tessa & I were touring in India and after nearly a month on the road we were in the beautiful city of Bhubaneswar in India's Orissa state.
Tessa came down with a cold and it sparked her asthma off. She hadn't been to a doctor since we left our home in Auckland, New Zealand and even though I knew she needed help she was determined not to make a fuss. I can't really blame her, a week or two earlier I had resisted getting help for one of my travel ailments. Admittedly neither of us would have run for the doctor back in Aotearoa NZ either.
During the day we had passed a closed shop front not far from our hotel claiming to be a doctor's evening surgery and that evening I "accidentally" steered Tessa past it. Inside the now open store was a professionally dressed man sitting at a desk with a minimal amount of medical equipment, an assistant and a curtained off examination area. At first I was a little dubious that he was the real thing, but when he started examining Tessa he did exactly what a real doctor would do anywhere and asked familiar questions. After a couple of minutes he wrote a prescription and when I asked for the bill only asked for 50 Rupees ... at that stage a little less than two dollars!
I was a little surprised at the minimal fee, but paid up and we went to get the script filled. The pharmacy dispensed some antibiotics and an allegedly cherry tasting cough mixture. These medicines were all fairly cheap, but still cost more than the doctor's fee.
Tessa told me it was the worst tasting cough mixture she had ever had ... but it worked better than anything she could remember. Within a day she was back playing the tourist with gusto.
Since leaving India and coming home to Auckland I've often wondered what was in that cough mixture, as I'm sure it must come with other syrups.
I've also wondered about that doctor. I sometimes think we might have wandered in on a charity clinic and if so he was probably as surprised at me asking for a bill as I was at the low fee, but again it's something I'll probably never know.
Originally published on Qondio