Li meets family of Dr Kotnis in Mumbai
Li, in India on his first foreign visit after taking office, took a break from his crammed schedule, to meet the family members of Dwarkanath Kotnis, who was one of the five members of a medical team despatched to China by the Indian National Congress to render assistance to the Chinese soldiers in distress.
During the special meeting with the Indian doctor's family - a tradition visiting premiers and presidents from China have kept alive for decades -- Premier Li recollected the contribution of Kotnis.
"The Indo-Chinese friendship has been strengthened by the contribution of late Dr Dwarkadas Kotnis, who rendered humanitarian help in China," he told the family.
"It was a most pleasant meeting. The Premier said that he (Dr. Kotnis) is a symbol of Indo-China friendship... this very word symbol covers the gamut of emotions about Dr. Kotnis, I guess," said Manorama, 92, younger sister of the iconic doctor.
She said Li expressed the high regard the Chinese people had for Kotnis and his work.
"Li has most generously invited us to visit China," she said.
"The Chinese Premier was very warm to us... very humble. The Chinese are proud of Dr Kotnis for the service he rendered during the Japanese aggression," said Shalmali Golkar, Manorama's grand daughter after the meeting that lasted about 30 minutes.
While all other doctors from Kotnis' team safely returned to India, he made China his home, marrying a Chinese nurse Guo Qinlang and having a son with her.
Reflecting the age-old bond between the two nations, the child was named Yin Hua (the two Chinese characters stood for India and China).
Landing in China as part of Indian Medical Mission Team in September 1938, the young doctor, tirelessly served the soldiers battling the enemy and a devastating plague that swept the country, sometimes working for three days at a stretch.
Strenuous demands of work on the frontline left the Maharashtra-born Kotnis debilitated and exhausted and the venerated doctor died of epilepsy on December 9, 1942 at the young age of 32. He was buried in the Heroes Courtyard, at Nanquan village.
The Chinese commemorated the memory of Kotnis with a statue in the Martyr's Memorial Park in Shijiazhuang, in Hebei province.
In 2006, Chinese President Hu Jintao had met Kotnis' relatives, including his two sisters and other relatives here. He had then said Kotnis would always be a "bridge" between China and India. When President Jiang Zemin visited in 1996, he sent flowers to the family.
The life of Kotnis made it to celluloid in the 1946 film 'Dr Kotnis Ki Amar Kahaani' (The Immortal Story of Dr Kotnis), directed by V Shantaram. The seminal work immortalised the young doctor, who died serving humanity in a foreign land.