Arunkumar Bhatt

China shall never forget him for his services, says the President recalling the inspiring tale of Dr. Dwarkanath Kotnis

MUMBAI: "Dr. Dwarkanath Kotnis is still being remembered and loved in China and we shall never forget him for his services," Chinese President Hu Jintao told nine members of his family here on Thursday. He had a 20-minute meeting with them at a hotel just before addressing a group of business leaders.

Whenever Chinese leaders visit India, they make it a point to meet his relatives.

Appreciation

"President Hu is a very simple and affable man and looks so young," said Dr. Vatsala Kotnis, a sister of the surgeon. Mr. Hu met each member of the family individually and enquired about her or his well being. He told them Dr. Kotnis is a link between India and China. He added that relations between the countries were improving.

The Kotnis family presented Mr. Hu with a cotton bed-sheet, made in Solapur in Maharashtra, the native place of Dr. Kotnis. They also gave him a video disk of the 1946 Hindi film by V. Shantaram, Dr. Kotnis ki Amar Kahani, and his biography, Bridge Forever, written by Mangesh Kotnis, Dr. Kotnis' brother. Mr. Hu presented the family with an album of rare photographs of Dr. Kotnis.

Family's sentiment

AP reports:

Speaking before meeting Mr. Hu, Manorama Kotnis, who is 85, said she hoped that reviving the story of her brother would provide inspiration to improve ties between India and China. "Young people will be inspired by his story. They could also learn how good relations between India and China were then," she said, sitting at home surrounded by fraying albums of black and white photographs of her brother treating Chinese soldiers. The family home in downtown Mumbai is filled with pictures and wax statues of Dr. Kotnis.

A mission

Dr. Kotnis, along with four other Indian doctors, went to China in 1938 in response to a plea from China for help in its fight against occupying Japanese forces. There he became an icon. He distinguished himself on the front lines in northern China, where he treated hundreds of patients in mobile clinics in the midst of battles and trained young people to assist him in surgical procedures. He died in 1942 at the age of 32 after an epileptic seizure.

Dr. Kotnis had married a Chinese woman Guo Qinglan a year earlier, and they had a son who died at age 24. Ms. Guo has visited India and stayed in the Kotnis home in Mumbai.

China has repeatedly honoured Dr. Kotnis, for whom there is a large memorial and a small museum at China's Martyrs' Memorial Park. A stamp was issued in his honour and his work is taught in school textbooks.

Love and admiration

Most official Chinese visitors to India visit the family to pay their respects. "They want to keep his memory alive," said Ms Manorama Kotnis, who has visited China several times at the invitation of the state.

"There is so much love, admiration and respect for him there," she added.

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