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'I convinced Basu to celebrate his birthday'

Indrani Roy Mitra | January 17, 2010

Late West Bengal [Images] Sports and Transport Minister SubRamala Chakrabortyhas Chakraborty's wife Ramala could not hold her tears when asked to talk about Jyoti Basu [Images]. The veteran Marxist leader breathed his last at a private hospital on Sunday.

The Chakrabortys knew Jyoti Basu very well. Her husband, Basu's protege, never made any political move without his advice. It is said that Subhas Chakraborty [Images] dared to take on the Communist Party of India-Marxist Politburo's decision to sack former speaker Somnath Chatterjee [Images] in July 2008 only because he received a tacit approval from Basu.

Both Ramala and Subhas took care of the old and ailing Basu in his last years and paid a visit to his Indira Bhawan residence regularly.

Chakraborty spoke to rediff.com at the AMRI hospital, where Basu received treatment, on Sunday afternoon. Over to her. . .

Beneath his stern veneer, Basu was an affable individual, full of humour and affection. He was a family man to the core and did his best to keep his family members happy.

I came in contact with Jyotibabu in the early 1960s. He had an aura around him that earned everyone's respect. To be honest, Subhas and I were in awe with him. We, the young party members, put him on a pedestal and literally worshipped him.

However, as we grew closer with time, we came to see the other side of Basu. We saw in him a great leader, an astute politician as well as a kind individual. He was someone who thought sincerely about the people and the people's movement.

Gradually, I developed a special bond with him. I could now put forth certain issues which nobody could broach to Jyotibabu, without fear. For instance, CPI-M [Images] does not believe in celebrating birthdays.

However, Subhas and I convinced Jyotibabu to have some sort of f�te on his birthday on July 8. He could not say 'no' to us.

Jyotibabu was a Bengali to the core. He was very fond of authentic Bengali cuisine and relished whatever I cooked for him.

He loved non-vegetarian food -- mangsher jhol (meat curry) and maacher jhaal (a fish preparation) being his hot favourites.

To me, he was like a banyan tree -- a true guardian whom I could turn to for advice in crisis. I feel so helpless at the moment.

Image: Ramala Chakraborty. | Photograph: Dipak Chakraborty

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