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Looked familiar? Now you know
- From Calcutta to Buckingham palace easel moment

July 26: By George, he’s Calcuttan!

Badar Azim, the Footman who helped place the formal proclamation of the birth of a royal baby boy on an easel near the gates of Buckingham Palace on Monday, is from the erstwhile capital of the British empire.

The 25-year-old studied in St Mary’s Orphanage and Day School, Dum Dum, run by the Congregation of Christian Brothers of Ireland, who sponsored his education. He then pursued hospitality management at the International Institute of Hotel Management (IIHM), Salt Lake.

Badar, said a friend who did not wish to be named, “lived with his parents and two younger brothers in a one-room house on CIT Road”. His younger brother is at present a student at IIHM.

Badar being a Royal Household member, those back home in Calcutta are tight-lipped about his roots. “We would not want to talk about this and Badar wishes that we don’t too,” said Dorothy Noronha, principal of St Mary’s Orphanage and Day School.

The family, too, does not want to say or do anything to breach any privacy clause at “The Palace” and jeopardise Badar’s position.

Suborno Bose, chairman, IndiSmart Group, the parent company of IIHM, recalled “a very disciplined and polite student who excelled in studies and went on to do extremely well in his work in the UK”.

Bose’s wife Sanjukta, who is the director of the hotel management institute, described Badar as a “quiet and soft-spoken” student. “He was good in sports and was particularly interested in F&B services. He was well-groomed and not one of the naughty ones that create problems,” she added.

Badar studied at the Salt Lake institute from 2007 to 2010 and, in the final two years of the programme, completed his BA in Hospitality Management from Edinburgh Napier University. Soon after that, he got a job with Buckingham Palace.

According to a 2011 news report on the website of the Edinburgh university, Badar organised a 10-mile charity walk to “show his appreciation” for St Mary’s in Calcutta. “There is no doubt that without St Mary’s, I would not have had the opportunities that I am now so grateful for,” he said in the report.

Badar Azim from the IIHM files

On Monday, he became the link between St Mary’s Orphanage and Day School in Calcutta and St Mary’s Hospital in London, where Prince George Alexander Louis was born.

Badar was thrust into the limelight when he and the Queen’s press secretary, Ailsa Anderson, placed the formal proclamation on an easel, thereby confirming the Duchess of Cambridge had given birth to a baby boy.

It was quite a responsibility for someone who had joined the Royal Household only in February 2012.

Those who know about staff uniforms would have noticed that Badar was wearing his summer kit which is allowed when the weather is warm — and it was the hottest day of the year so far with 33.5 degrees Celsius recorded at Heathrow.

So what does Badar do in Buckingham Palace?

A Footman has to do odd jobs that might include carrying messages from one part of Buckingham Palace to another, opening doors and generally making himself useful.

He would easily fit into Writers’ Buildings, shuffling files, serving endless cups of tea and walking the corridors of power or simply hanging around outside the chief minister’s office when she is in her seat.

Of one thing, it is possible to be sure: young Badar was not picked for the easel task accidentally. To be sure, he happened to be on duty when the proclamation arrived, signed by the doctors who had assisted in the delivery — among them an Indian, Sunit Vinod Godambe — but so were dozens of other staff.

In choosing a non-white Footman who would be seen in millions of homes around the globe, Buckingham Palace was perhaps indicating that the new baby had been born into a multicultural Britain. These things are planned very carefully.

Another Footman, Martin Blake, who joined the Royal Household in October 2006, recently described a typical day: “Each day is very different; you really don’t have a day that is the same, but that keeps you on your toes and stops the job becoming repetitive. One day I might be working on the Privy Purse Door greeting guests, or serving at a banquet, the next I could be working in the silver pantry or riding on the back of a horse-drawn carriage. Whatever the task, providing first-class service is always the main objective and all the team take great pride in this aspect of the role.”

He added: “Most of the Footmen also live in accommodation at one of the Palaces. This is great as there is a real community amongst those who live in, and not many people have the opportunity to live right in the centre of London. I also get to make my Mum very proud!”

That’s what Master Badar’s folks back home near Park Circus must be feeling.


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