PART I: The Love Story
This story is like a fairy-tale and like most memorable love stories; it also has a tragic end, at least in this world. Anuradha Saha was born in Calcutta in a middle-class family, only daughter with two other siblings. A rare combination of angelic beauty and simmering grace, Anuradha was also an exceptionally intelligent student. After graduating in the top of her class from the Modern High School in Calcutta, she got a scholarship to study in the USA – a rare feat for the Indian students. She left India at a very young age soon after finishing high school to achieve the best education and build a productive career in the Home of the Braves and Land of the Free.
Kunal Saha was also born in a middle-class family at Halisahar, a suburb of Calcutta. With 11 siblings and a doctor-dad, “education” was the central theme of his family. But Kunal was one of the most gregarious and jovial member in his large family with an impeccably open mind for the outside world. Six feet tall with a typical TDH (tall-dark-handsome) look; Kunal was also a fanatic cricket-lover and an astute student with remarkable ability to overcome academic challenges. He graduated from a local high school as a “National Merit Scholar” and was offered admission in almost all top academic institutions in India including the IIT-Kharagpur, Birla Institute of Technology, Presidency College, Jadavpur University and even the Pune Film Institute. But he eventually followed the foot-steps of his father and elder brother to study medicine and joined the NRS Medical College in Calcutta to become a doctor.
The way this love-story between Kunal and Anuradha started would astound even a frequent watcher of Yash Chopra’s romantic Hindi films. As Kunal completed his medical education at NRS in the mid-1980s and was all set to join most of the rest of his family who had already migrated to the USA, Anuradha came to Calcutta after graduating from the Southern California University to visit her parents. Kunal was supposed to go to Delhi on the first week of January 1985, but missed his train for the first time in his life as he got trapped in one of the famous traffic jams on Mahatma Gandhi Road. Anuradha was supposed to return to California the very next week. They would have never met had that horrendous traffic jam in Calcutta, for once, not played the role of Cupid and forced Kunal to miss his train to Delhi to stay back in Calcutta.
Frustrated for missing the chance to go to Delhi, Kunal returned to House-staff quarter at the NRS Hospital. To compensate his loss of fun in Delhi, Kunal and some of his close doctor buddies promptly arranged a picnic the very next day at Kunal’s family house – a gorgeous bungalow near the Ganges some 50 kilometers from Calcutta. Anuradha also had a school friend, Madhumita, who was a dental student at the R. Ahmed Dental School and was also a common friend of Kunal. Madhumita was invited for this picnic at Kunal’s family bungalow. Having heard that her school friend was visiting from USA and would return to America next week, they also invited her to join the picnic. Sunday, January 6, 1985 is a red letter day for Kunal and Anuradha. This was the day of the picnic when the eyes of Kunal and Anuradha met for the first time and this “love story” began. Was it love at the first sight? Kunal always said, “Anu (abbreviated name of Anuradha that Kunal used to call her) you are more than just a love for me – you must be my angle. Otherwise, how I could have ever missed the train for Delhi only to meet you”. Anu quipped, “I had to be with you, Kunal. I am right in your center. Look at K-U-N-A-L; A-N-U is right in the middle. Our names were chosen at our birth by our parents. How could they put me right in the middle of you when we were born?” Kunal and Anuradha always celebrated January 6, 1985 as their true “anniversary” day even though they actually did not get married until 27th July, 1987 (see below the anniversary wishes written by Anuradha on January 6, 1989).
he love between Anuradha and Kunal flourished in a spectacular manner despite a huge physical distance in America. Anuradha went back to California to join a new graduate program (she initially wanted to become a lawyer in the USA) and Kunal started his new life in USA, first as a research trainee at the Lousiana Medical Center in Louisiana and then as a graduate student at the University of Texas-MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas. Although Anuradha had been living in the USA long before she met Kunal, she had a tough existence as a young, Bengali student without any family around, trying to build a career in the hustle and bustle in an exotic place in a foreign land, the city of the Angles (Los Angeles). Kunal was living in the deep South trying to cope up with the drastically different life style in America even though he had the support of other family members who were already settled in America. But the distance of more than 3000 kilometers between California and Louisiana was hardly a barrier for these two young lovers who always felt that their match was made in the paradise. Anuradha would drive on the busy highway in California or stroll on the glistening beach of the Pacific Ocean and block out all sounds except the sound of the waves as she engaged in an endless imaginary conversation with Kunal who was living thousands of miles away. Anuradha was blissfully happy by falling in love with Kunal as she wrote in one of her numerous enchanting love letters to Kunal, “If I ever make you, a fraction as happy as I was today, I will say, “Koonal, you are one lucky guy!” Couldn’t I stay, that way, for a long, long, time, perhaps even for ever?” (see Anuradha’s letter to Kunal on next page).
Their love story soon had a happy turn of event – Kunal and Anuradha decided to return to Calcutta and get married. They eventually got married on 27th July, 1987. Despite a difficult situation as a young couple with limited money and an uncertain future, they enjoyed every minute of their life together as a married couple (pictures below).
But the difficult journey towards the “American Dream” started soon for Kunal and Anuradha. While Kunal returned to Texas to resume his medical career, Anuradha had to stay back in India for almost two years before she could return to the USA because of the regular waiting period for visa as the wife of a permanent resident of USA. Anuradha eventually joined Kunal in USA and took the LSAT (entrance test necessary to get into law schools in the US) and prepared herself to get into a law school. She obtained high grades in almost every test that she took and was offered admission from many top law schools in America including a full scholarship at the Baylor Law School in Houston. In the meantime, Anuradha was also working with abused children at the “Texas Department of Children’s Services”. While working for the abused children, she was shocked to find the unscrupulous ploys routinely adopted by the lawyers (mostly in custody battles for the children). She was tormented to find the mental pain and suffering of the abused little children. She changed her mind to become a lawyer and instead, she wanted to be a Child Psychologist to help the hapless children of child abuse. Anuradha applied for graduate programs in “Child Psychology” and was accepted by “Columbia University”, the prestigious Ivy League school in New York City. In the meantime, Kunal also completed his study at the University of Texas and was offered a lucrative fellowship from the “Aaron Diamond Foundation” for conducting HIV/AIDS research at the Columbia University Medical Center. They moved to New York City in 1993. Life was still a busy and hectic struggle. While Anuradha was a studying as a full time graduate student at the expensive Columbia University and also working part time for the children at the Archdiocese of New York, Kunal was busy with his AIDS research at the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in upper Manhattan. Despite a very busy life and hard struggle in New York (as most young couple must go through to reach the American Dream), love between Kunal and Anuradha only grew stronger everyday. With little time and money in hand, they still tried to extract time for fun activities in the New York City and often drove long distance to see the rest of the beautiful country of the United States of America (see pictures below).
Kunal & Anuradha with friends at the Grand Canyon in Arizona
The script of this scintillating love-story looked almost picture perfect towards the end of 1997. Anuradha completed all requirements for becoming a “Child Psychologist” from Columbia University while Kunal finished the fellowship from the Aaron Diamond Foundation for AIDS Research and published his HIV research in the top medical journal “Nature Medicine”. As Anuradha and Kunal planned all along, they were now ready to start a family of their own. They decided to move to a new place because despite the glitters and fun of New York City, both thought that this was not an ideal place to raise a child. Anuradha would take a break from study and practice for a couple of years to raise the child. Kunal also got the “First Innovative Grant for AIDS vaccine” from the National Institute of Health (NIH) and was offered faculty position from top universities across the country. Eventually they chose to accept the offer from the Ohio State University (OSU) and Children’s Hospital in Columbus because of its peaceful location and mid-western tradition. Both Anuradha and Kunal visited Columbus at least four times before making the final decision to move there. They applied and obtained a joint mortgage to purchase their first house – a beautiful lake-front mansion compared to their apartment in New York City. A big, new “house” in USA for the first time after years of hard struggle together – a house with big back yard and front lawn with plenty of space and of course, a very large kitchen with all the modern amenities (Anuradha’s special wish for many years for her love of cooking). She also decided to buy a new car – a Mercedes sports utility vehicle because she thought a regular car is not suitable when you have a family. Kunal signed a lucrative contract to join OSU from June 1, 1998 as a regular tenure-track assistant professor. They packed all their belongings from the New York apartment and shipped it with the movers for Columbus.
One final wish Anuradha also had – to collect the blessings of her mother in Calcutta before she starts this new phase of their life. So, Anuradha and Kunal planned for a short trip to India just before starting their new life in Columbus. They landed at the Calcutta Airport on April 2, 1998 – the happiest couple ever to land at the DumDum Airport. But they could hardly wait to go back to their new, dream home in Columbus, Ohio. Destiny willed otherwise!!! Anuradha never left the soil of her motherland again to get back to their dream house in Columbus. From a simple skin rash (as allergic reaction to some drugs), she eventually died in India because of the rash and grossly negligent medical therapy by three senior Calcutta doctors, Dr. Sukumar Mukherjee (Medicine), Dr. Abani Roychowdhury (Medicine) and Dr. B.N. Halder (Dermatologist). The next chapter of Kunal-Anuradha love story started with the incomprehensible death of Anuradha as Kunal raged an unprecedented legal as well as social war to bring justice not only to his beloved wife but also for the thousands of defenseless patients who are dying everyday in India only because of medical negligence and an absolute lack of regulation over the practice of medicine in India.
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