Book – Victoria and Abdul- The True Story if Queen’s Closest Confidant
Author- Shrabani Basu
Publisher – Bloomsbury, India
Written by Shrabani Basu, Victoria and Abdul is the story of the eccentric friendship between the Queen and Hafiz Abdul Karim, who was to rise from the position of her servant to her Munshi teaching her the Urdu language ( referred to as Hindustani language in the book.
Abdul was working as a clerk in the Central Jail of Agra when he was chosen to go as one of the Indian servants as requested by the Queen. He came as a servant but soon became one of the most important person in Queen’s life to such an extent that the mention of last decade of her life is incomplete without referring Karim in it.
Karim was her link to India. The Queen was always left mesmerized by the Indian culture whenever the Royality from india visited and now she had some to talk aabout the country in detail. Munshi gave her something to look up to in form of the teacjing lessons, filling the void in her life created after the death of her husband and her dear friend, James Brown.
The book is a good example to show how the power of influence can be used to get anything done. Though some of the titles and gifts given to Munshi were justified but many other titles rendered to Munshi and her father were purely a favor on the basis of personal liking but as a Queen one is expected to be free from any sort of biasness.
The book is also a very good account of the functioning of Royal Household under the Victorian rule and to know in detail about the manner in which the Empress used to spend her day and night .
Karim used to take pride in his closeness with the Queen but the hostility that he faced in the later years of his service could only be linked to racial discrimination and envy associated with the rapid increase in the status of Munshi within the social circle of Queen and not because of his haughty behaviour.
It is a very well researched book and a story that deserves to be known because despite the numerous efforts made by the British Monarchy after Queen’s death to remove any evidence of her association with Karim, here we are, with a profoundly written book on this unique friendship along with a movie that released worldwide.
Looks like no one could stop Abdul Karim from being known as the Queen’s Munshi even if its late by a century.
STARS – 5/5
Note – The book was first published in 2010 but the latest edition has been updated with the inputs of Munshi Abdul Karim taken from his diary after the author was able to contact his family and read his old brown journal.