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Before I left New York I tried to stock up on Malarone, an anti-malarial mediation. Our doctor had advised us to take it every day, and despite a lot of other people telling us it wasn’t necessary, we figured it was better to be safe than sorry.

However, the pharmacists in New York thought I was part of some anti-malaria stockpile conspiracy and they refused to give me more than a one-month supply.

I had tried to argue my way out of it, but there was no chance. Rules were rules and I just was going to have to get more Malarone once we got to India.

I mention this now, because my experience with Indian pharmacies has been dramatically different.

In order to find Malarone in the first place I’ve had to call around. As is customary here with almost any store, if they decide they don’t want to talk to you, they just hang up or hand the phone to someone else. So my conversations have sounded mostly like this:

Me: Hello? Is this the chemist?
Them: Hello?
Me: Hi. Chemist?
Them: Hi.
Me: Hi, are you the chemist?
Them. Hi. Yes.
Me: Ok, do you have Malarone?
Them: What?
Me: Malarone? It’s a preventive malaria drug.
Them: What?
Me: Malarone.
Them: Hold on

(Pause here anywhere from three to ten minutes while they ignore you or pass you off to another person)

Them: Hello?
Me: Hi. Did you find it?
Them: What?
Me: Malarone?
Them: What is Malarone?
Me: I talked to someone earlier about whether you have Malarone, it’s an anti-malarial daily pill
Them: We don’t have.

Now is the part where you hear the dial tone because they hung up.

Exciting, isn’t it?

But once you’ve found the drug you’re looking for you’ll have no problem actually getting your hands on it.

Indian pharmacy's array of medicines

I finally found a pharmacy that confirmed the existence of Malarone. I walked in and was greeted by a small woman in a lab coat over a yellow salwar kameez.

“How can I help you ma’am?”
“Hi. I called earlier about Malarone –“
“Ah yes,” she said as she turned to go looking for it. I looked at the prescription sitting neatly in my hand, waiting to be passed over. She hadn’t asked for anything. Here I was apparently not a criminal for wanting extra Malarone – on the contrary, it seems I could’ve asked for a multiple-month supply without giving any reason at all.

I stood waiting and eavesdropped on the conversation taking place next to me, between a gangly pharmacist and an older gentleman peering up at him from round spectacles.

“It’s an imported medicine,” the older man was saying,
“Ah, do you know if it’s legally imported? Because we might have it either way, but if it’s legally imported then we’re more likely to be able to get it in,” the pharmacist replied earnestly.

I turned away – I didn’t want them to see that I was listening. But soon my pharmacist came back.

“How much do you want?” she asked.

I took a three-month supply. Why not?  I’ll never know whether the older gentleman got his medicine – legally or illegally imported – but I suppose, like me, he can get whatever he wants. Just perhaps not over the phone.

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