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Home > News > PTI

Hu Jintao's team has an Indian connection

November 08, 2006 11:33 IST

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Guo Qinglan the 91-year-old widow of revered Indian doctor Dwarkanath Kotnis, who saved hundreds of lives of Chinese soldiers during World War II, may be the oldest member of Chinese President Hu Jinato's entourage to India on November 20.

Guo plans to travel with Hu to India. But her failing health may prevent her from undertaking the trip this time, China Daily said in a front-page report, ahead of the first Chinese presidential visit to India in a decade.

"If I cannot go this time, I will make it when I get better," she said. "I want to have another look at where he was born and grew up," Guo, a retired nurse in Dalian, a coastal city in Northeast China's Liaoning Province, said, talking about her first love with Kotnis, who helped China during World War II and sacrificed his life in 1942.

In the 64 years since, she has visited the Kotnis family in India five times and exchanged letters frequently with her late husband's sisters.

Writing letters is difficult for Guo because she cannot remember how to spell the many English words she learned in childhood. But when Kotnis is mentioned, her eyes sparkle. She can recount almost every detail of the two years she spent with the Indian doctor more than six decades ago, the paper noted.

Kotnis was one of the five-member Indian Medical Mission Team along with M Atal, M Cholkar, B K Basu and D Mukerji, which was dispatched by India to China in 1938. All except Kotnis returned safely.

During his stay in China, Kotnis worked in mobile clinics to treat wounded Chinese soldiers. He was eventually appointed director of the Dr Bethune International Peace Hospital built by the Eighth Route Army, led by the Communist Party of China, on the northern plains.

Kotnis was regarded as an ambassador of Sino-Indian friendship. He became famous in his hometown after the publication of his best-selling biography One Who Did Not Come Back in 1945 and the screening of the 1946 Bollywood movie Dr Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani. In 1982, China also made a movie about him called, simply, Dr D S Kotnis.

In 1939, Guo quit her job at the Peking Union Medical College and joined the Eighth Route Army and joined Bethune Hospital in Tangxian County of North China's Hebei Province.

Guo and Kotnis fell in love and were married in November 1941. The following year, the couple had a child, whom they named Yinhua, meaning India and China. But only three months after Yinhua's birth, epilepsy struck Kotnis, and he died at the age of 32.

Guo still believes her lover died so young because he had been working too hard and non-availability of medicines.

During a 13-day battle in 1940, Guo said Kotnis carried out 588 operations over 72 hours without sleep. He treated more than 800 wounded soldiers during the battle.

Guo remarried in 1949 and had another son and a daughter. The family of five lived happily in Dalian, where her husband worked in the army and she became director of the local children's hospital.

In 1958, Guo made her first trip to India, taking 16-year-old-boy, Yinhua with her. Tragedy struck the family in 1967 when Yinhua died at the age of 24.

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