India’s pre-eminent Communist leader, a man of immense charisma and accomplishment, he set a record as the nation’s longest serving Chief Minister. His faith in the people was unflinching.
Despite being a die-hard Communist, Jyoti Basu could ignore party traditions sometimes -- he never objected to the birthday celebrations organised at his Salt Lake residence in the twilight years of his life.
“I started celebrating his birthday almost by force,” said Ramala Chakraborty, a Communist Party of India- Marxist (CPI(M)) leader and wife of party stalwart and former State minister the late Subhas Chakraborty.
The Chakraborty couple was very close to Mr. Basu.
Ramala said she started celebrating Mr. Basu’s birthday since he turned 80.
“It is not at all the party tradition to celebrate anyone’s birthday. But I insisted. Though he (Mr. Basu) never verbally approved of such celebrations, he never objected. So I gathered courage and continued with the celebrations,” Ramala told IANS.
She said her husband helped her but could not play an active role, being a front ranking leader. “Of course, Subhas helped me. Otherwise I could not have succeeded. But he could not play an active role as he was a party leader. So I took charge."
A weeping Ramala recalled Mr. Basu’s love for his grandchildren.
“He was like any other human being. Whenever I gave him chocolates he used to keep it aside for his grandchildren like any other grandpa would.”
After Mr. Basu’s wife Kamal died in 2003, Ramala used to come to his residence regularly, more so during special occasions.
“I have always tried to give him company on every special occasion. I used to make some special dishes and take them with me. He liked to eat but was a very small eater,” she said.
“After Subhas expired [Aug 3 2009], he has always shown concern about us and enquired about our son’s future plans,” she added.
Jyoti Basu stopped his convoy for a kid
Noted Bengali writer Nabanita Dev Sen was for long Mr. Basu’s neighbour when the former West Bengal chief minister lived at Hindustan Park in south Kolkata. She remembers the times he stopped his convoy for her daughter’s exams.
Recalling Mr. Basu’s simple lifestyle, Ms. Sen said despite being the Chief Minister, he never had an inverter even during the years when load shedding was rampant in the State.
Sen remembered seeing Mr. Basu sitting in his balcony often in the summer months alongside his wife and using a hand fan during power-cuts.
“Always a principled person, he would not get an inverter when we all had [one],” she told IANS.
Sen said she had known Mr. Basu as a neighbour since her birth. “My parents held my marriage ceremony in his backyard.”
“In spite of his very busy schedule, he was a warm and affectionate neighbour who would participate in our family celebrations and would even hold back his convoy to allow me to drop my daughter to her exam when we were late.”