As the nation mourns veteran Marxist leader Jyoti Basu, some remember a man who was never late, refused to eat leafy vegetables and was so thoughtful as to write a personal letter of congratulations when the sister of one of his personal staff was married.

A day after Jyoti Basu died, there is a reverent silence in the halls of Indira Bhavan, his Salt Lake residence. Those on his personal staff have tried their best to keep things as they were before he was rushed to the hospital, but the aura of the rooms has irrevocably changed, they say.

“There were always visitors who wanted to meet Mr. Basu, and in the days when he could walk about freely, the visitor’s room would always be abuzz with activity,” said Rabindranath Das, his attendant for the past seven years.

“He was always very particular about things and insisted on punctuality. He always awoke at 7.30 in the morning and turned in by 9:30 in the evening; you could mark time by it,” he said.

Equally particular about his eating habits, he never ate pulses, leafy vegetables or brinjals. Lunch always meant rice, two servings of vegetables and a preparation of any kind of fish except shrimp, he said.

“I was in awe of him when I joined his staff as a 22-year-old, but in the nearly 30 years I have known him, I never heard him use a harsh tone towards anyone,” said Pradip Bandopadhyay, who served as the telephone operator at Basu’s residence since 1981.

“A man with an astute memory, he made it a point of personally writing a letter to my sister when she got married,” he said.

“He never issued too many instructions,” said Tapas Adhikary, his driver for nearly 20 years.

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