The veteran Indian communist leader Jyoti Basu has passed away at the age of 95.
In The Telegraph, Calcutta, special correspondent Barun Ghosh recounts how India’s longest serving chief minister helped him keep his job at the newspaper, 25 years ago.
“The rain hadn’t stopped falling that July ’84 morning and I reached Writers’ Buildings a little late. It was past 1pm and I was in a hurry—Jyoti Basu was to hold a news conference. When I reached the secretariat to cover the conference for The Telegraph, I got a shock. It was over.
“Some reporters still around told me Basu had already held a lengthy news conference and was about to leave Writers’ for lunch. Seldom had Basu held a news conference so early in the day, but I couldn’t obviously tell that to my boss. For a minute I stood cursing myself for starting late.
“Then I decided.
“There wasn’t much security those days in the secretariat and I barged into Basu’s chamber. His private secretary tried to stop me, but didn’t seem to mind the intrusion all that much as mine was a familiar face at Writers’. But once inside Basu’s chamber, my courage ran out as the chief minister looked straight at me and asked what I was doing there after the news conference was over.
“I stammered something and then almost broke down at his feet. I would be pulled up, I pleaded, if I didn’t get the details of the news conference.
“Basu looked at me, paused for a moment, then asked me to take a seat.
“I sat on a chair and was about to take out my reporter’s notebook when I heard Basu tell someone to get a cup of tea for me with cashew nuts. ‘I know your editor,’ he smiled at me. ‘Aage ek cup ga-ram cha khao tarpor tomake shob bole debo (First have a cup of hot tea, then I’ll tell you everything).’
“As I sat sipping tea, I saw him go through files lying on his large table. I asked him if I was making him late for lunch, but he just smiled. A while later he asked me to note down the details of the news conference. After I had jotted them down, he asked me to read out what I had written. I was allowed to leave after he was satisfied that there had been no distortion of facts.”
Read the full account: How Jyoti Basu saved my job