Subhash Mukhopadhyay was a physician from West Bengal, India, who created the world’s second and India’s first child using in-vitro fertilisation, Durga who was born 67 days after the first IVF baby in United Kingdom.
A commendable achievement, no doubt.
But how did India reward such a prolific man?
He was forced to commit suicide owing to repeated rejections and ridicule of his work.
Born on 16th January, 1931, Subhash graduated from The Calcutta National Medical College with an Honors degree in Physiology. Durga, alias Kanupriya Agarwal, was born on the 3rd October, 1978, in the hands, or rather the test tube of Dr. Mukhopadhyay.
It is possibly the worst irony that Durga was born 67 days after the first test tube baby for, had she been born before, probably Dr. Mukherji would’ve led a respectable life and not killed himself.
The story of the ridicule
Dr. Mukherji was working on his project at the Nil Ratan Sircar Medical College, Kolkata, West Bengal. He was a very talented man and probably possessed talent far ahead of his times.
18 November 1978: An “expert” committee was appointed by the Government of West Bengal under the medical association to decide over the fate of a convict named Dr. Subhas Mukhopadhyay. The charges against him were the following:
- He claims to be the architect of first human test tube baby named Durga.
- He announced the report to the media before being cleared by the Government bureaucrats.
- He made the impossible possible with few general apparatus and a refrigerator in his small apartment when others cannot even think of despite having expensive resources (in this research Mukhopadhyay was assisted by Sunit Mukherji and S.K. Bhattacharya).
- The most important allegation: he never let his head down by the government bureaucrats and his straightforwardness always attracted jealousy out of his peers.
The “expert” committee, presided over by a radiologist and comprising of a gynecologist, a psychiatrist, and a neurologist knew absolutely nothing of modern reproductive technology.
An example of the questions Dr. Mukherji was asked:
“Where did you keep these embryos?”
-“In sealed ampules.”
“How did you seal an ampule?” (?!!)
Speechless Mukhopadhyay could only utter “pardon?”
“Oh! Embryos do not die while sealing?”
At the end of this ridiculous farrago of exasperating dimwitted questions, his research papers were termed as “absolutely bogus”. He was handed a punishment which transferred him to the Ophthalmology department, also effectively ruining his prospects of working on the hormone project.
So, how did his discovery come to light?
According to scientific records, Harsha Vardhan Reddy Buri (born 16 August 1986) became the first human test tube baby of India. The credit for this achievement went to T. C. Anand Kumar.
In 1997, he went to Kolkata to participate in a Science Congress. It was there that all the research documents of Mukhopadhyay were handed over to him. After meticulously scrutinising and having discussions with Durga’s parents, he became certain that Mukhopadhyay was the architect of first human test tube baby in India.
On T.C. Anand Kumar’s initiative, Mukhopadhyay was mentioned as the architect of first Indian test tube baby. On her 25th birthday, Durga first exposed her identity in a ceremony organised in the memory of Mukhopadhyay.
She spoke about her creator in front of the media and proved once again that her creator’s claim was not bogus: “I certainly do not want to be a poster girl of the IVF industry, which undermined Dr Mukhopadhyay’s achievement for 30 years,” said Durga, “I am not a trophy but I am proud to be the living example of work of a genius.”
However, all this happened posthumously, in 2002, twenty-one years after his death.
Facing social ostracisation, bureaucratic negligence, reprimand and insult instead of recognition from the West Bengal government, and refusal of the Government of India to allow him to attend international conferences, he committed suicide in his Calcutta residence on 19 June 1981.
The man who sacrificed hopes of children for research
Namita Mukhopadhyay’s, wife of late Dr. Mukhopadhyay has been paralysed and battling with ignominy and neglect ever since her husband committed suicide. Namita is confined to her bed now and naturally, the news of her husband’s recognition failed to bring any smile on her face.
“We decided not to start a family as he (Subhas) wanted to complete his research. He was a very emotional person and dedicated himself to his work. But he never got any support either from the government or from his peers,” says Namita.
His was the tragic tale that inspired Tapan Sinha’s ‘Ek Doctor Ki Maut’.
The Department of Reproductive Physiology in Nil Ratan Sircar Medical College has been renamed after this great stalwart.
Today, ED Times is paying homage to him and many others are still getting to hear of him for the first time.
But some mistakes are too expensive.
On that fateful 9th of June, 36 years ago, Namita returned from school to find the hanging body of her husband inside their Southern Avenue flat.
The suicide note read:
“I can’t wait everyday for a heart attack to kill me.”
Image credits: Google
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