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The Story of Queen Victoria and Abdul Karim Shrabani Basu's Victoria and Abdul: The True story of the Queen's closest confidant is a pragmatic record of historical events. There is a limited attempt at pre-judging circumstances or exaggerating the connotations of the incidents narrated. In fact, this detailed account is arguably one of the most objective appraisals of the sub-continent's history which adroitly investigates an unexplored controversy.

Victoria and Abdul is an honest portrayal of, what has been dubbed, a contentious relationship between Queen Victoria and her Munshi (instructor) of Indian-Muslim origin. Abdul Karim, who was formerly an assistant clerk at Agra Central Jail, is appointed as the Empress' personal assistant and soon wields a strong position in her court.

As the reader is absorbed into the intricate world of royal intrigue, the subtle nuances of this relationship become more apparent. He is compelled to wonder whether the rumours surrounding the inappropriate connection between the queen and her Munshi are even remotely true. The letters the Queen wrote to Abdul Karim were always signed 'your true friend' and even 'your dearest mother'.

Why would a relationship that was so ultimately pure be considered objectionable? As the book progresses, the reader is exposed to a string of different clues that provoke the realization that rumours are always generated through a multifaceted process of sabotage.

A historical work that delves into the extraordinary rapport, Victoria and Abdul cuts through the gossamer frameworks of racism, prejudice and ethnocentrism to create an understanding of an emerging sense of pluralism. Abdul Karim's presence at court serves two very crucial purposes: first, it provides the context through which Queen Victoria's tolerance and receptivity is highlighted; second, it challenges the stereotypical view that there were limited opportunities for Indians to secure positions of importance under the British Raj.

And yet, it is very difficult to drive out the belief that the relationship of generosity and veneration between Abdul Karim and the Empress is somewhat deceptive. Queen Victoria, who is devoted to her personal assistant and sees to his well-being - appears to be exploited by Abdul Karim who acquires stature and importance under her tutelage.

All in all, Basu has provided a comprehensive account of this relationship which has been buttressed by relevant references that add an element of historical precision. Her book sets its own standard of versatility. Therefore, it is suitable to be recommended for a scholastic study as well as an engaging read. queen victoria abdul karim