Five Indian doctors set to retrace Dr. Kotnis' historic journey in China

The doctors from left, Dr. C.M.L. Gurumurthy, Dr. D. Sridhara Reddy, Dr. Rajesh Kumar Dhir, Dr. M. Mohan Reddy and Dr. Lovneesh Kumar, who are part of the second China-India Joint Medical Mission, will retrace the historic journey of Dr. Dwarkanath Kotnis in China. Photo: Ananth Krishnan  

Starting Tuesday, five doctors from India will recreate the historic journey through war-torn central China made by five young Indians seven decades ago, during the Sino-Japanese War.

In 1938, five young Indian doctors arrived in Hebei province in central China to help Chinese troops during the Japanese invasion, after Jawaharlal Nehru called on Indians to help their under-fire neighbours. This year marks the 100th birth anniversary of Dwarkanath Kotnis, who was one of the five doctors. Dr. Kotnis died of illness on the battlefield, even as he became a household name in China for his bravery and compassion.

Dr. Kotnis is still fondly remembered in China today. To celebrate his life, the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC) has invited five Indian doctors to recreate his historic journey. The five doctors — ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) specialists from Chandigarh, Hyderabad and Bangalore — will spend 10 days in China providing free treatment in the same Hebei villages where Dr. Kotnis made his name.

'Symbol of friendship'

“Dr. Kotnis has been a symbol of friendship between India and China for many years, and through this mission, we want to keep his message alive,” Wong Tong, director of the Asia-Africa Department of the CPAFFC, told The Hindu.

In 2008, the CPAFFC launched the first China-India Joint Medical Mission. This week's medical exchange will be the second such mission.

M. Mohan Reddy, an ENT doctor from Hyderabad who is leading the group, said he wanted to be a part of the mission “to carry forward those feelings of fraternity and friendship that Dr. Kotnis left behind.”

The mission, which will officially be launched here on Tuesday, will see the five doctors conduct free ENT camps, deafness prevention and detection activities, and distribute hearing aids in Hebei's villages and towns. They will be accompanied by five doctors from Shijiazhuang, where Dr. Kotnis spent most of his time in China treating wounded soldiers. They will begin their journey in Gegong village in Tangxian County, where Dr. Kotnis spent the last days of his life.

Medical benefits

Beyond the symbolism of the journey, Dr. Reddy said the mission would also yield medical benefits, given the common healthcare challenges India and China faced as large, developing countries.

'A lot to learn'

“Both developing countries are facing the problem of trying to devise healthcare programmes that are people-oriented,” Dr. Reddy said. “There is a lot we can learn from China, from the infrastructure in their hospitals to their policies for rural healthcare. Our idea is to continue such exchanges in the future, especially for community programmes in deafness and blindness, which are common needs in both countries.”

On Monday, the five doctors visited Beijing's Tongren hospital. They said they were most impressed by the infrastructure and by the wide patronage of traditional Chinese medicine treatments.

“We can learn from how China has regulated and standardised techniques like acupuncture to make treatment more affordable for the common man,” said C.M.L. Gurumurthy, an ENT doctor who is the pro-chancellor of the Devaraj Urs Medical College in Karnataka.

“In India, such treatments are often unregulated. We asked the doctors today to consider establishing an acupuncture institute and an institute of herbal medicine in India,” he said.

'Deeper understanding'

Ms. Wong of the CPAFFC said the idea behind exchanges was to improve understanding between both societies, which still remains far from adequate.

“We need to get a deeper understanding of the relationship among the public,” she said. “Especially for young people, there should be a channel for them to understand each other and learn about each other.”

In September, the CPAFFC will send a youth delegation to Chandigarh. Ms. Wong said there was increasing interest among young Chinese today to visit a fast-developing India — an India which differed from “outdated perceptions” in textbooks, which rarely get beyond the caste system.

“In all the years I have spent working on such initiatives, I have never seen such a new kind of curiosity,” she said. “There is a stronger will in China to know more about what India is like. And, this interest is only growing stronger and stronger.”

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Printable version | Nov 24, 2021 2:34:01 AM |

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