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A pen and a perfect Basu

By Our Special Correspondent

Photo: Sushanta Patronobish

BASU LEFT, BASU RIGHT: The former West Bengal Chief Minister, Jyoti Basu, tries his hand at imitating a life-size wax statue (right) of himself presented on his 90th birthday in Kolkata on Tuesday. The sculptor, Sushanta Roy, is at centre.

KOLKATA JULY 8. Bengal today raised a toast to two of its post-Independence illustrious sons, elder politician Jyoti Basu and cricketer Sourav Ganguly who, bound by a common birthday, turned 90 and 31 today.

Hundreds of children, men and women thronged the otherwise heavily-fortified residences of the two national heroes who pushed aside the customary security shields — both figure on the hit lists of the various terrorist outfits — to receive visitors.

At Indira Bhaban, the former Chief Minister's residence in Salt Lake, Jyoti Basu stepped out onto the foyer to allow himself to be surprised at the likeness to him of the full-size wax figure of him. "Well, he looks like me," Mr. Basu said, provoking laughter all around. Much to the delight of the artist Sushanto Roy of Asansol, the creator of the wax figure, Mr. Basu went up to the replica, took out the pen from the front pocket of his white kurta and put the same into the front pocket of the "punjabi" worn by the wax figure. "Now, it looks complete," Mr. Basu said, pointing at the hallmark.

The other "birthday boy", Sourav Ganguly and wife Dona, too, spent a day crammed with streams of visitors, meetings powerful people and appearances in breakfasts, lunches and dinners and photo shoots in hotels. In the afternoon, the couple dropped in on Writers' Buildings to discuss fund-raising with ministers for supplementing the Government's efforts to construct a new wing at a State-run children's hospital.

At Indira Bhaban, Mr.Basu said that like others in the CPI(M), he, too, did not subscribe to the idea of birthday celebrations but at the same time, it was beyond him, he said, to turn away such a large number of well-wishers especially children who every year flocked to the place to "shower love and flower-petals on Jyoti dadu.''Since morning people from all walks of life streamed to the two-storeyed house. Among them were leading academics, politicians, industrialists, players and common people. One of the driving powers behind this organised birthday show were the State Transport Minister, Subhash Chakraborty, and wife Romola.

The Chief Minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, reached the Salt Lake residence in the morning with a bouquet of red roses. He was followed by Anil Biswas, who summed up the mood: "We don't believe in birthday celebrations, but when it comes to legendary men like Jyoti Basu, you don't hesitate to make exceptions," he said.

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