So I find my aisle seat on the plane and the man in the window has his face buried in a book and he is clearly not one of those chatty types you get on flights, thank goodness. Can’t stand that lot, blah, blah, blah.

We take off and I notice on his boarding card his name has a Dr before it so as we order drinks I say I see you are a doctor. He concedes the fact. A slice of silence and then I say, could I ask you a question and he says, sure, not that I can stop you. I say you know I have this back problem and it affects the neck and the ache is exhausting, can you suggest something. He says see an orthopedist. By now the ice is broken so we begin to chat about my prostate, my occasional bouts of hypertension, stress, pain in the ankles, no, no, my sugar is fine but I have insomnia and post-Covid breathing stress.

He surrenders his book, sighs sadly which I think is a bit odd and engages in the discussion of my medical issues with what I decipher is enthusiasm.

Somewhere over the Arabian Sea at 35,000 feet I think since there is still an hour or more to land, why not widen my scope of inquiry and move on to discuss my wife’s allergy, my athletic son-in-law’s knee problem, and my friend’s migraine.

What a pleasant trip I think, then we land and exchange addresses and fervently promise like air passengers do to stay in touch except the moment the baggage comes it’s goodbye Columbus and the party’s over.

A week passes and I get this email from him with an attachment of four invoices for consultations for me, my wife, son-in-law and friend. Total of Rs 10,000. I call him and laugh and say, ha ha that was funny, for a moment I thought you were serious. He says,I am deadly serious. I say, whaaaat, we were having such a nice conversation.

No, we were not, you were cadging free medical advice, I was on the plane intending to read, nap, relax, enjoy, not get into a consultation with a chatty little stranger. I am not chatty, I said, I cannot stand chatty people and he said, you talked non-stop, now pay for the advice.

And I said, well, now that you are on the line, I am having this kind of sharp pain in my thumb and wrist… but he disconnected. The thing is, should I pay him?



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