I went to the ENT a while back to get my vocal cords checked out and here’s how it went down.

Took an auto to the Saket City Hospital, about 6 miles south west of where I live. I walk in and pass the “Premium Lounge” and think, hmm that’s interesting, I wonder who gets to go in there. Two minutes later, I’m being shuffled into the premium lounge without having said a word, written a check, or flashed any of my fancy bling. I’m guessing it was because of the color of my skin. While inside I was offered tea, and I watched as he poured packet of packet of milk and stirred it up into a nice pale cream. A few moments later a lovely young lady asked me for 1300 rupees. The consultation fee. I coughed it up and was soon on my way to see the doc. When I got to his office we chatted and he apologized for the charge saying that this wasn’t a consultation, as we had already consulted in his private practice, this was going to by the laryngoscopy. So I went back and handed them back my bill with a couple notes and asked for the refund and that I would pay the balance. Something confused them greatly, but they assured me that I would grow tired standing at the busy reception and shuffled me back to the premium lounge.

After a short time the doctor came looking for me because what should’ve taken 2 minutes was still underway after 10 minutes passed. With a few angry words in Hindi he grabbed my bill, handed me some change and took me to the back. I apologized for my passivity but what was I to do from the lonely confines of the premium lounge? He said it was no problem and gave me the scoop as we walked towards the endoscopy room. Because the procedure was thought to cost 3600 rupees but only came up as 3200 in the computer the front desk staff was trying to find miscellaneous charges to add to my bill to get the extra 400 out of me. Of course, this is a multi million dollar hospital that has a reputation at stake as well as a large endowment and he told them it was not their responsibility to reverse bargain just because I had expected to pay it.

He assured me that the level of care was just as good as in the states, but that it was lower down the ladder where things still followed the broken systems and customs of Indian business. I nodded affirmatively as I searched the room. I was sitting on a hospital bed, a little unnecessary for a laryngoscopy, and there were 4 snake-like cameras hanging from an open plywood closet a few yards away. It began to click that this was the endoscopy room, for all sorts of internal exploration, and it would be silly to think that they reserved any of these wiggly spies for the privileged procedure that is the laryngoscopy. So as he threaded a thick glowing device of modern medicine up through my nose while excess local anesthetic dripped down my lip and into my mouth, I tried my best not to gag.

I’d do it again. $60 in India, $1200 in America. PS my vocal cords were fine.