Mumbai: Keeping alive the traditions of past Chinese leaders, visiting Premier Li Keqiang Tuesday had an emotional audience with Manorama Kotnis, the 92-year- old sister of medico Dwarkanath Kotnis, considered the symbol of India-China friendship.
Li warmly and humbly welcomed Manorama, her granddaughters Shalmali Borkar and Sanika Jain, her husband Abhay Jain and a cousin Kishore Khot from the US.
Incidentally, Manorama was a professional nutrionist working with the government and the four relatives who accompanied her for the meeting with Li are medicos, carrying on in the best traditions bequeathed by the legendary Dwarkanath Kotnis.
"He arrived on the dot in a conference room adjacent to the Golden Room in Hotel Taj Mahal. He greeted us all warmly and made us instantly feel at ease," said Shalmali, 26.
Expressing his "great happiness" at the meeting, Li enquired after Manorama's health and said that all Chinese leaders make it a point to the visit the Kotnis family whenever they are in India.
The premier informed the family that China still remembers Dwarkanath Kotnis and his help to his countrymen during the crises following the Japanese aggression during 1937-45.
Interestingly, 2013 is the platinum jubilee of Kotnis travelling went with a medical team to China in September 1938 at the age of 28.
On her part, Manorama said in a frail, emotional voice how the family remembers Kotnis, who went to China in the prime of his youth and passed away at a young age in that country.
She expressed her gratitude to Li for sparing time from his busy schedule to meet the Kotnis family and admired how China has kept his memory alive even after 75 years.
Interacting with the other family members, Li explained to them how Kotnis is still regarded as a strong symbol of Sino-Indian friendship and the manner in which China has honoured him by keeping his alive legend through different monuments and memorabilia, Shalmali said.
Among other things, China has honoured Kotnis with a Martyrs Memorial and a 1982 movie. Every Chinese head of state or government who visits Mumbai calls on the Kostnis family.
"He very graciously told me that if any of us were interested in visiting China, he would organize everything," Shalmali told IANS, but said she had no immediate plans to visit the country.
Manorama and her relatives greeted Li with a bouquet. He reciprocated by gifting a MP4 player to Manorama, as he learnt that she loves to listen to music despite her failing hearing ability.
"My brother was also very fond of music and loved singing. But with his medical responsibilities, the best he managed was bathroom singing," Manorama said jocularly, sending the Chinese premier and his 20-plus strong delegation into splits.
In the past, the Kotnis family met with then premier Zhou En-Lai in 1950, followed by president Jiang Zemin in 1996, who sent flowers to them.
In 2001, premier Li Peng, premier Zhu Rongji in 2002 and president Hu Jintao met the family in 2006.
Last year, Kotnis's second sister, Vatsala expired and also his widow Guo Qinglan, passed away at an advanced age in their respective countries, India and China.
"We returned home with very fond memories of our meeting with Premier Li and appreciate the high regard China still has for Dr. Kotnis," Shalmali said.