The Literary City

Shrabani Basu On Why Queen Victoria Loved Abdul Karim And How Conan Doyle Saved A Parsee Lawyer

May 25, 2022 Explocity Podcasts Season 1 Episode 22
The Literary City
Shrabani Basu On Why Queen Victoria Loved Abdul Karim And How Conan Doyle Saved A Parsee Lawyer
Show Notes Chapter Markers

A few years ago, I went to a movie theatre in New York City’s Chelsea, a theatre that screens indie films, to watch this new movie, Victoria & Abdul. It is a story of how Abdul Karim, a servant to Victoria, who was then Queen of England, came to be her closest confidant. A touching tale.

After the movie, in the foyer, I overheard one woman asking her friend in a most puzzled tone, “Is that what the museum in London is called? Victoria and...Abdul?!”  “No dear,” her friend replied and set her straight on the correct name, "it’s Victoria and Albert Museum, dear."

The title of the movie is based on the book of the same name by my guest today, author, journalist and most definitely, historian, Shrabani Basu.

Shrabani has the almost uncanny ability to find a story where others did not and spend years researching it. Such as the story about a Parsee lawyer in pre-WW1 England, George Edalji, who was accused of murdering horses.

Now, who among us has not lived in 221B Baker Street—the residence of Sherlock Holmes? In our hearts and minds. We know that Arthur Conan Doyle created Sherlock Holmes  and wrote those magnificent mysteries. But there were two occasions when Conan Doyle could actually play Sherlock Holmes; that of Oscar Slater who was convicted of bludgeoning an 82-year-old woman. Doyle saw inconsistencies in the case and paid for most of the costs for Slater's successful appeal, 20 years later.

The other famous case was that of George Edalji. Conan Doyle got involved and despite the efforts of the local constabulary, had him exonerated…importantly, in public and historical opinion.

Shrabani Basu’s book, The Mystery Of The Parsee Lawyer, is a cannot-put-down thriller more so because it is a real life Sherlock Holmes thriller.

Back to the lovebirds, Victoria and Abdul and putting aside my pretenses of not being interested in muck rake and scuttlebutt, I want to know how close Victoria was to Abdul. How close really? 

To that end, let’s ask the author, Shrabani Basu.

Shrabani Basu is an author and a journalist. She was born in Kolkata and grew up in Dhaka, Kathmandu and Delhi. Her books include Victoria & Abdul: The Extraordinary True Story of the Queen's Closest Confidant, now a major motion picture, Spy Princess: The Life of Noor Inayat Khan and For King and Another Country: Indian Soldiers on the Western Front, 1914-18. In 2010, she set up the Noor Inayat Khan Memorial Trust and campaigned for a memorial for the Second World War heroine, which was unveiled by Princess Anne in London in November 2012.

The Mystery Of The Parsee Lawyer:
Victoria And Abdul:

Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in the segment "What's That Word?", where they discuss the the word "Panjandrum".

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