Radhika Sanghani in The Telegraph:
It was on a family trip to the Isle of Wight’s Osborne House that Shrabani Basu discovered a secret that had lain untold since Queen Victoria’s death. The Indian journalist had taken her two teenage daughters with her to the former Queen’s palatial holiday home to witness the restored Durbar Room; an original banquet hall.
As Basu wandered through the house’s Indian wing, she couldn’t help notice several portraits and a bust of an Indian servant called Abdul Karim. “He didn’t look a servant,” explains Basu, 54, from her North London home. “He was painted to look like a nobleman. He was holding a book, looking sideways. Something that about that expression struck me, and when I moved along, I saw another portrait of him looking rather gentle. It was very unusual.”
At the time, in 2003, everything she knew about Queen Victoria’s Indian servants came from a book she had written on curry several years earlier – namely that the Queen had loved curry (chicken curry and daal being a particular favourite), and had servants from India who cooked it for her every lunchtime.
“It was in the back of my mind all along, so when I saw the portraits of Abdul, including a tableau of ladies serving him, I was intrigued,” says Basu. “I knew I had to look into this.”