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Synopsis

The past century has been an exciting era for the Bengalis in Malaysia attempting to preserve our identity and cultural heritage. However with the dilution of the community the radar for the coming years is misty. In the course of our efforts to uphold our identity and provide services to the public and be counted, we have not lost sight of our primary professional responsibility as doctors. Many have contributed towards the advancement of the profession by actively participating in research as well as providing financial grants. It is an opportune time to write this book. Our identity might be totally lost in the next 100 years except for the imposing edifice of Bengal House in Port Dickson, Negri Sembilan to bear testimony to the once thriving, vibrant proud Bengali community. The publication would be collecting dust and cobwebs and would be useful only to historians possibly excavating into our possible extinct past. Since commencing this book, two very prominent senior members have passed away, and it is most unfortunate that they have not seen this humble effort. We live in a global world transcending geographical boundaries and preservation of the last vestiges of our heritage should be the responsibility of each and every one of us. The objectives of undertaking this Herculean task which hopefully have been fulfilled were an attempt to: Compile a list of Bengali doctors since their first arrival more than 100 years ago in what was then Malaya together with the subsequent 2nd & 3rd generation doctors born here. Some names might have been left out inadvertently for which sincere apologies are extended while a handful had not responded to repeated efforts to contact them or their next of kin. Explore the reasons for their migration. Many who were from the same district of East Bengal as Rai Bahadur Dr Sarojininath Bardhan’s and were related to him through his marriages were probably influenced by his success. Some arrived to avoid political persecutions. Global conditions such as World Wars I &II and the Great Depression of the 1930s obviously played an important part in the decision making process. The Post World War II years witnessed the return of local doctors whose studies were interrupted and a couple had harrowing experiences to narrate. Some contract doctors were also recruited directly by private local clinics. Highlight the decades of the 50&60s which could be rightly considered as the golden era for the Bengali doctors. There were insufficient numbers of local graduates to fill the posts as most of the Chinese doctors went into the vast lucrative private sector while very few Malays had taken up Medicine. Although a large number had applied from Bengal, only about 35-40 doctors including a few with post graduate qualifications were recruited. Some climbed up the ranks and became senior administrative officers, appointed not on the basis of availability but because of their capability and proven track records. In the1960s, the Medical Faculty of University of Malaya was established in Kuala Lumpur and some Calcutta graduates with post graduate qualifications from the United Kingdom were offered key posts to help jump start certain disciplines. This was an excellent testimony of the academic standards of Calcutta University graduates. These two decades also witnessed the successes of the 2nd generation Bengalis with a couple completing their post graduate medical studies in double-quick time. The first Malaysian Radiologist to start Angiographic studies and to be awarded a neuro-vascular fellowship in Sweden in 1968/69 was a Bengali. In view of the limited number of super scale posts, many however were given ‘glorified’ titles of State Physicians or Surgeons despite being only Clinical Specialists! Reiterate the contributions of Bengali doctors towards the Malayanisation of the medical and health services in the two states of Sabah & Sarawak in early 1970s. The efforts of Dr. Rabindranath Roy in unifying the Indian community in Sabah were significant. The first President of the Malaysian Medical Association from East Malaysia was a Bengali. Acquaint the younger generation of the role of doctors in the community in the hope that they would be cherished and emulated. Despite their professional commitments they had found time to engage in humanitarian and voluntary services. Re-establish the close bond that existed amongst the Bengali doctors of yester years. The Bengali Association through its various programs are encouraging greater participation and at an accelerated pace trying to leap frog the ‘lost ground’. Illustrate the prominent role the women doctors have played not only in their respective professional turfs but also in preserving and promoting our cultural heritage. Many have taken leadership roles in various vocational projects. It is with immense pride that we record that the first female Radiologist and the first female Dermatologist in Malaysia were Bengalis. The doctors with mixed parentage whose mothers are Bengalis and were willing to participate in this review are recognized. Record the yeoman service performed by the medical personnel at the turn of the last century in manning the hospitals in the newly opened plantations, indirectly contributing to the economic development of the nation. Portray the contributions of one of the smallest communities to the Universities, Public and Private Sectors. Notwithstanding this, there have been occasional disappointments. We are like a drop of water in the Straits of Melaka opposite Bengal House when compared to the number of doctors in the country. A few who had ventured overseas have become icons in their respective specialties and communities. Illustrate the rare accomplishment of the Bardhan geneology that boasts of four successive generations of medical specialists extending over 100 years. The Sinha and Tarafder families too with four generations of medical practitioners and others with three generations of doctors are also reviewed. Record the tragic death of Dr Santosh Kumar Roy in 1955 in a helicopter crash on his way to attend to a medical emergency: the epitome of the medical profession. Any notion that this book would succeed to cover every aspect of the contributions of each and every doctor to the professional and social fabric of his/her environment would be preposterous and is doomed to be a flop. It is only a modest attempt to accord the proper status to our peers and predecessors and hopefully it will carve a niche and serve as a basis for future reference. Some names have not been included at their own request. In Malaysia with its diverse culture and traditions, the long and colourful heritage of our small community could only add to its diversity. Ample opportunities are being continuously extended by the government to the various communities to preserve and nurture their heritage. Our unique traditions would help us identify ourselves and let us not squander the opportunities provided.

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