By ANANYA SENGUPTA
The Telegraph: Thursday , August 19 , 2010
Dhaka, Aug. 18: The two-storey house on the Meghna’s banks where Jyoti Basu spent a part of his childhood and kept returning to in later life will be turned into a library and a museum in keeping with his wishes.
The plan, an initiative of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed, is now awaiting the approval of Basu’s family in Calcutta, whom the Bangladesh deputy high commissioner has been asked to contact.
“This is an excellent proposal,” the late communist leader’s son Chandan Basu said in Calcutta. “I had visited my ancestral home near Dhaka along with my father when Gen. H.M. Ershad was the (Bangladesh) President. I shall be delighted if the Bangladesh government goes ahead with its plans.”
Basu’s family lived in the house, set on 2.04 acres in Chowdhury Para in Barudi village, about 20km from Dhaka, till the early 1940s before moving to Calcutta. Basu was born and educated largely in Calcutta but seems to have been deeply attached to his ancestral home with its pond and leafy premises.
Local journalists said the veteran communist had visited the house during his last trip to Bangladesh in 1999 and expressed a desire to have it converted into a library.
Basu had spent some time at the house during his January 1987 and November 1997 visits too, and regularly asked about its condition till his death in January this year.
Soon after it came to power, the Awami League-led coalition government had decided to turn the house into a museum. The plan was to have Basu inaugurate it after its completion, but that was not to be.
The government’s move is expected to attract tourists and help the economy of Barudi village, where hundreds of Hindus and Muslims had gathered after Basu’s death to pray for the soul of a “great man of the subcontinent” who would speak to them “like a commoner”.
No blood relatives of Basu now live in Barudi, and caretaker Shahidullah, 75, and his family are the only current occupants of the house. Shahidullah’s mother Ayatunnessa once looked after Basu, the youngest of three siblings after Surendra Kumar Basu and Sudha Datta Basu.
Basu had charmed Barudi during his trips when he was Bengal chief minister.
“He spoke to ordinary villagers like us and asked about our welfare as though we were very close to him,” Mohammad Rafiq, a 60-year-old farmer, had said after his death. “He behaved as if he was a commoner like us; that’s how sincere he was.”
The house has two bedrooms and a drawing room on the top floor and two rooms and a meeting space on the ground floor. It has been taken over by the cultural affairs ministry and put under the care of the archaeology department.