Politics and ignorance coupled with a colonial mindset have held India back many times. Indigenous talents have been mocked, ridiculed and buried with denial of their ability. There are ample stories of such talent being sidelined or tramped because of politics, bureaucratic red-tapism and the self-loathing tendency of many Indians that remarkable achievements can only be done by foreigners.
Film jolting India’s memory
A film came out in 1991, which got many accolades and awards. Its director got the National Award for Best Director. The name of this film was ‘Ek Doctor Ki Maut‘. It was directed by acclaimed director Tapan Sinha. The lead roles included actors like Pankaj Kapur, Shabana Azmi, and Irrfan Khan among others. It was not a tragic figment of imagination but was a true reflection of reality. It was based on a scientist whose value India never realised in his lifetime.
Talent let Abyss
Can you recall the name of India’s first test-tube baby, and the year in which she was born? If your answer is Baby Harsha / Indira, born in 1986 through IVF technology. Then sorry my friends, you are wrong. As this is not the real truth. In reality, this remarkable feat was achieved by an Indian years ahead of the purported first.
A Bengali doctor became only the second person in the world to succeed in accomplishing this feat using IVF technology. But unfortunately, he succumbed to the dirty tricks of bureaucracy and cruel politics. This tragic story is about Dr Subhash Mukhopadhyay, who never got the respect and fame he deserved while he was alive.
Alma mater of Dr Subhash Mukhopadhyay?
This qualified doctor, rich in versatility, was born on 16 January 1931 in a Bengali Brahmin family in Hazaribagh. He completed his Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD from prestigious colleges affiliated with the University of Calcutta. After that, he travelled to Edinburgh, where he obtained his second PhD in ‘Reproductive Endocrinology’.
Thereafter Subhash Mukhopadhyay served at NRS Medical College, Kolkata from 1967 to 1975, in which he got to know many eminent members like Dr Sunit Mukherjee, a Cryobiologist and Dr Saroj Kanti Bhattacharya, a Gynaecologist.
On 25th July 1978, Dr Patrick Steptoe and Dr Robert Edwards achieved the remarkable feat of delivering a test tube baby through In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF). Within a span of three months, Dr Subhash in collaboration with Dr Mukherjee and Dr Bhattacharya decided to achieve the same feat in India.
Their efforts brought laurels and a foetus started taking shape in his laboratory.
Within just 67 days of that remarkable achievement by the Steptoe-Edward duo, Dr Mukhopadhyay also scripted history, Eureka! On 3 October 1978, he announced to the world that he had also done a successful experiment of giving birth to a child through a test tube..!
The girl child born through the test tube was named after an Indian Goddess ‘Durga’. The story behind her name is also very memorable. On 3 October 1978, it was the first auspicious day of Durga Puja. Hence, she was named ‘Durga’.
Historic first missed by a whisker
If Durga was born 67 days before, India would have become the first country in the world to give birth to a child through the test tube method. With this feat of giving birth to a test tube baby by using IVF technology, it seemed as if India was reclaiming its lost glory. As India is the same nation that gave the world the knowledge of ‘Sushruta Samhita’ and taught the world the precious knowledge of curing.
Things quickly went South
Dr Mukhopadhyay’s experiment was 100% successful even with limited resources and technology. Had it been achieved in some other nations; the citizens and government would have rallied him over their shoulders for a victory lap. But what he was showered with was insult and humiliation.
The Communist government in Bengal tried every bureaucratic hurdle to refuse to give due recognition to his historic achievement. It appointed a panel to examine the claims of Dr Subhash. The committee was headed by a radio physicist and members from varied fields like gynaecology, neurophysiology and physiology.
The committee was to examine four points. They asked strange questions and finally concluded to deny claim of Dr Subhash Mukhopadhyay. They termed it as bogus. The utter level of humiliation and insult he had to face can be understood from his forced actions of committing suicide. In his last letter, he wrote, “I can’t wait for a heart attack every day to kill me….”
For a brief moment of time, we may lose hope but there is always light at the end of the tunnel. As it seemed at the outset that Dr Mukhopadhyay’s research would go in vain and that his work would never get justice. In the year of 1986, TC Anand Kumar, another doctor from India gave birth to a girl child by test tube method. She got the title of the first doctor to give birth to a test tube baby in India.
In the year 1997, Dr Anand got the important documents which made him realise that before him Dr Mukhopadhyay had already achieved this monumental feat.
After a thorough study of all the documents, Dr Anand Kumar concluded that Dr Subhash Mukhopadhyay was the first scientist to give the gift of a test tube baby to India.
Due to Dr Anand Kumar’s initiative, Dr Subhash Mukhopadhyay was finally given credit for giving birth to India’s first test-tube baby. This story was brought to the mainstream by the aforementioned movie “Ek Doctor ki Maut”. This proves that barring the propaganda films, Cinema can be a true reflection of society. Though Dr Subhash Mukhopadhyay never got the love and respect he deserved but his scientific works have etched history and have made him an eternal being. As they say, legends never die, they live through their ideas and works. It is time for India to honour its talented researchers, scientists and social workers who have been forgotten because of bureaucratic hurdles, politics or social ostracization.
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