You're a Doctor?

Most of the travelers I've met don't trust the medical facilities in India, comparing it to the five-story, immaculate, marble-tiled hospitals in America. "Clinics" in India can be a windowless room connected to the "doctor's" house (saw one like this in a village in the Uttaranchal mountains), or a wooden room with 2 plastic chairs, a poster of Britney Spears, and 2 shelves full of meds that even the "doctor" didn't know how to pronounce (ran into here while trekking in Darjeeling). Lucky me, in 5 months of traveling, I hadn't succumbed to any injuries or sicknesses that required anything more than 2 Advil or squatting patiently (with twisted grimaces) over the hole-in-the-ground toilet several times a night.
But 3 days ago, I was swimming in the oceans in Varkala, reveling in turquoise waters that were ferociously strong. The waves were about half the height of a very decent surf, and I was humming doo-wa-diddy to myself when I got caught in a fast one. It flipped me under, and I immediately clawed my way up for air, but the waves were so strong that I actually somersaulted twice underwater before I broke through the surface.
Woohoo! That was awesome! I thought, and waited for more strong waves to tumble me around. There weren't any rocks or coral on the seabed, so I knew I wouldn't be crashing into anything that could render me unconscious.
The next morning, though, my left ear was pounding. It felt like it was plugged - like when you fly in a plane or ascend altitude quickly while driving. I couldn't hear out of it; there seemed to be a bubble in my ear canal.
The pain didn't go away, even after a strong coffee and my last Ibuprofen tablet. There were no hospitals or clinics in Varkala, so I waited until two days later, when I arrived (after an exhausting 17-hour train ride that started at 3 am) in Pondicherry. Pondi is a fairly big city in southern India, bordered on the west by the Bay of Bengal and populated by more than 220,000.
The first "clinic" I went to was closed. On the metal gate hung a sign: "Open 7 am-1 pm, 3 pm-7pm ever day." I looked at my watch: 9:30 am. No use waiting for a doctor who doesn't stick to his hours.
The next two clinics I walked to had no one who spoke English. Moving on.
The fourth clinic was bustling, a good sign, and one of the patients asked me, "What you want?" I told him I had what might be an ear infection.
"Here, no do that. Here only gives shots and takes blood. You go to Bussy Street. 5 minute walk."
Sure enough, as I looked around, all the patients were getting shots or having blood drawn (there were no separate rooms with doors or curtains; it was all happening in one big room with several long wooden tables).
I moved on, and eventually hit an Ayurvedic clinic that a. was open (score!), b. had an English-speaking staff (score 2!), c. was clean and organized (score 3!), and d. had a website (bonus point!).
My "doctor's consultation" was simply a chat (interrupted briefly by him responding to a text message that came through), a look into my ear canal without any medical instruments, and a poking of the area behind my ear.
Authoritatively, he sat behind his desk.
"OK," he stated confidently.
I leaned my right ear towards him so that I could hear him clearly.
"You have tenderness behind your ear. It is a little red. I think maybe you have water worries. It will clear in a week. I will give you antibiotics."
"It's just water? I can't hear anything outta my left ear...are you sure my eardrums aren't broken or something?" I questioned.
"No, no, simple antibiotics, and soon the water will clear. Have you tried knocking your head?"
He demonstrated by violently thrusting his head to the side.
"Yeah, but it doesn't do anything."
"Have you tried to close your ears?"
The doctor placed both palms over both ears, looking ridiculously like a four-year-old who plugs his ears when he's told it's bedtime. "Then, you release, like this."
With a dramatic exhale, he released both palms from his ears.
I tried it. Nothing happened.
"Well, I think it will disappear in a week. Also, I see you have hair loss."
I was confused. Surely, I'd misheard him. I leaned my right ear closer and asked him to repeat.
"Hair loss..." He pointed to the top of his hair line. "You are losing hair, no?"
I didn't think so. I told him that my hair has always been like this, choosing to ignore his comment.
I bought some antibiotic pills from his Ayurvedic clinic, and was charged 100 rupees (about $2) for his consultation, aka peeking into my ear.
As I walked down the street, I pondered getting a second opinion. Was it worth it to seek out another doctor? I shrugged off the thought, knowing how long it would take to find another English-speaking doctor who might have proper medical tools...and might not.
"Oh well, two more days and I'm in Baltimore, where I can see a real doctor," I thought. Then, in shocked horror, I admonished myself for thinking a parallel thought to my fellow travelers who constantly complain about facilities in India and proclaim that "everything's better in America."
Within fifteen minutes, I was treating myself to a wonderful beachside lunch of Navra Kofta, curd rice, and a sweet lassi - for 75 rupees ($1.50), and there is no place or taste in America that beats that. India wins in cuisine and culture, America counters with medical facilities and big cars.

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