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As I wait to interview respiratory physicians in a high-end private medical clinic in Chennai, a sprawling metropolis in the state of Tamil Nadu, southern India, I look around the outpatient setting and see few women clients.

After professional introductions, the women clinicians ask me what has become a standard question in my visits, as a public health researcher, to five private medical institutions in the city during the past four months.

“Why are you interested in doing this research?” [...]