I found this book to be a fascinating insight into the household of Queen Victoria. It’s quite incredible that a hundred years ago, a British Queen befriended an Indian Muslim, not only that, but she learnt to read, write and yes speak Urdu. It really changed my opinion of the queen and showed that she was in fact a very compassionate woman who did not hold any bigotry towards Indians or indeed Muslims.
For this insight alone, I think the book is worth it, it’s scarcely plausible now to imagine a British Muslim as an aide to the prime minister/queen; this book captures what it was to be in her household. The unspoken parallels of his association with a British Muslim intellectual of the time (Rafiuddin) and the British establishment’s belief that he might be a malcontent when in fact he stated Britain might be a positive force in India are quite amusing when compared with this day and age. Now too, Muslims are apt to be tarred and feathered merely for meeting other Muslims, who might not even be radical, just perceived to be so. It seems some things just don’t change.
I would have liked the book to be a bit longer and discuss more of what happened to Abdul Karim after Queen Victoria passed away, there are suggestions that Abdul Karim grew pompous in his old age, I would like to have seen that expanded, but like another review stated, it allows people draw their own conclusions.
After all, class and status are so utterly artificial, when we die, people remember us for our actions, not the wealth we accumulated. I now remember Abdul Karim as the man who taught Queen Victoria Urdu, and care little for the man who sought to leave a cushy life in Agra in his retirement.
Victoria and Abdul; Basu, Sharbani; Rupa and Co; Rs. 395