Amid the rising tension between India and China came a blink-and-miss news recently that Dr Kotnis has been voted among the top 10 international personalities who shaped China.
Dr Kotnis who?
I would have probably wondered myself had I not vaguely remembered watching a black & white movie on Doordarshan as a kid.
It was called Dr Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani. Some grainy images flickered in my mind as I tried to recall but all I could remember was a man in a doctor’s coat trying desperately to save a soldier in a war setting. It must have been nearly 20 years ago that I saw the movie.
So I Googled and came up with some surprises. It was a pre-Independence movie made in 1946 scripted by the legendary Khwaja Ahmad Abbas and directed by another legend V. Shantaram. And, like most of his movies, Shantaram also played the lead — Dr Dwarkanath Kotnis.
This 28-year-old doctor was sent as part of a five-member medical team to China in 1938 during the Sino-Japanese war. Subhash Chandra Bose, the then Indian National Congress president, made arrangements for the team to be sent as a mark of solidarity from a nation struggling for its own freedom to another fighting an aggressor.
Dr Kotnis spent five years on various war fronts in China saving hundreds of soldiers. It is said that once he continuously operated upon wounded Chinese soldiers for 72 hours at a stretch.
Amid the frenzy of war, the good doctor also found time for love. He fell in love and married Guo Qinglan, a nurse who worked with him. A few months after a son was born, Dr Kotnis died of epileptic seizure at the young age of 34. The couple had named the baby boy Yin Hua (Yin for India and Hua for China in Mandarin).
Every year when the Chinese observe a festival remembering their ancestors, the grave of Dr Kotnis at a village in Hubei province, is covered with flowers.
They still remember their great Indian friend every year. Wonder how many of us Indians even know his name.
PS: Check out this link to know more about the Indian doctor who’s a legend in China: