Story in OUTLOOK Magazine - February 13, 2006

I never enjoy the new Year’s holiday much and have never been tempted to throw myself in the Trafalgar Square fountains, but this year marked a new low when I passed the holiday in the intensive care ward of the Guru Nanak hospital in the city of Ranchi. Despite knowing India quite well after five years as a foreign correspondent based in Delhi, I made an elementary mistake: scouting for an auto on an until street in Jharkhand capital, I did not keep one eye on the ground and as a result fell down a deep unguarded hole, gashing the back of my head.

Immediately India revealed its nicest side: a Tata Sumo screeched to a stop and a stranger hauled me out of the hole then drove to my hotel nearby to warn them. I felt no pain and it was only when I saw myself in the hotel lift’s mirror covered in blood that I realised I was in trouble. At the hospital they stitched me up and kept me under observation. The night were hideous with the coughs and groans of my fellow-patients hammering on death’s door. When my wife Daniela kissed me goodnight at 7pm on December 31, that was the end of my New Year’s celebrations. The hospital ward, however was impressively clean and modern and the attention was kindly as well as professional. This impromptu road test of the India health system suggests that all those Brits lining up to fly to India for operations that would cost five or ten times as much over there are certainly into a good thing.
Friends in Europe urged me to sue the Ranchi municipality for millions of pounds, but I have spent enough time in India not to step willingly into that particular chasm.

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