: Visiting veteran Marxist leader Jyoti Basu's Salt Lake residence on July 8, his birthday, was an annual ritual for many, political leaders and commoners alike, and although he himself preferred to not have too much fuss made on the occasion, many would look forward to it as one of his assured public appearances.

“We usually don't observe birthdays, but since it is the will of so many people, I usually come here for a few minutes,” Basu had said on his birthday last year in one of his last public appearances.

“To those well-wishers of West Bengal who want development and prosperity for the State, I am with you,” he had assured his admirers on that occasion.

Even though the celebrations were much subdued this year in sharp contrast to the revelry that had become a tradition over the years, his 96 {+t} {+h} birth anniversary was observed on the porch of his residence on Thursday.

A wax statue of Basu that had been presented to him on his birthday in 2003 by sculptor Sushanto Rai was brought near the steps of the house and set beside his favourite chair. Reportedly, when Basu had first seen the statue he had found the resemblance remarkable, but pointed out that something was missing – a pen that he always carried in his pocket.

Former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, veteran Forward Bloc leader Ashok Ghosh, the state's Fire and Emergency services Minister Pratim Chatterjee, and Basu's personal aide Joykrishno Ghosh joined several of his admirers and members of his personal staff to pay homage. All remarked on the “absence” they felt on the occasion.