October 20, 2006


Dr. B. Soma Raju and I visited the Bethune Military Medical and Nursing College, Shijiazhuang, China. We were invited to mark the release of ‘Guiding Souls: Dialogues on the Purpose Of Life’, penned by Dr. Kalam and I, and translated into Chinese by Ji Ping in Beijing. After the inauguration by Liu Hongcai, the Vice Minister of International Department of the ruling Communist Party of China, in the presence of CPI (M) politburo member, Sitaram Yechury, we travelled to Shijiazhuang.

There is a sprawling memorial of Dr. Dwarkanath Kotnis created in the Shijiazhuang city. I knew Dr. Kotnis from V. Shantaram’s popular film Dr. Kotnis ki Amar Kahani, I saw in my childhood. He went to China with four other doctors in 1938 to provide medical assistance during the second war between China and Japan. While others returned to India, Dr. Kotnis married a nurse colleague Guo Qinglan and made Shijiazhuang their home. The couple named their son Yinhua joining the Chinese word Yin for India Hua for China. However, as fate had it, epilepsy afflicted Dr. Kotnis and he died even before seeing the first birthday of his son. My hosts arranged a wreath for me. Standing there amidst high Maple trees with large round trunks, I wondered how great souls are universally loved and respected. The gratitude of Chinese for someone who served their people in their bad times was indeed heartwarming.

 This was my second visit to Shijiazhuang. I had been there earlier in December 2003, with my wife and son Amol. There are certain places, which draw you for some reason beyond human comprehension.


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