At times, we footmen have to be on the royal carriages and assist the guests on and off the carriages on the occasion of the Royal Ascot
former footman at the
Buckingham Palace, told first-year students at IIHM, Salt Lake, on Wednesday
“A footman is basically a butler who works in a household. My job was to serve Her Majesty and the members of the royal family on special occasions of lunches and dinners organised by them to entertain their personal guests.”
Badar Azim, the former footman who hit the global spotlight by helping place the formal proclamation of the birth of the royal baby on an easel near the gates of Buckingham Palace in July, broke his silence to a classroom full of juniors at his institute.
“I’ve never done this before,” said a nervous Badar, after addressing around 130 first-year students of the International Institute of Hotel Management (IIHM), Salt Lake, on Wednesday.
The Beniapukur boy may not have spoken at such a gathering before but then he has done a few other things — like being “probably the first Indian” to go with the Queen on horse-drawn carriage “to the State Opening of Parliament of Britain”, and to the diamond jubilee event and the coronation festival.
“I didn’t know what a footman was,” said the soft-spoken 25-year-old. “One of my friends from the Edinburgh Napier University told me to apply for this position and I checked their website. After a week or so, they gave me a call about a telephonic interview, and then I was called to London for an assessment, followed by a personal interview,” he recounted, the slight British accent giving away his six months spent in the Palace.
Badar has been living in Calcutta with his parents and younger brother ever since his London stint was cut short in end-July — within days of baby George being born to William and Kate — as his “visa had expired”.
On Wednesday, in front of a roomful of admirers, he recalled “a very amazing call” that confirmed his selection at the Buckingham Palace seven months ago. “I have been quite lucky to be working during Her Majesty’s reign,” he said.
But what exactly did Badar as footman do? “My job was to serve the Queen, members of the royal family and their guests.” On special occasions, “us footmen would accompany the Queen and look after her personal guests”.
Like when the Queen spends her Christmas in Sandringham House — a Royal residence dating back to 1862 — which has been home to many glittering occasions, one of them in 1957, when the Queen made her first televised broadcast live on Christmas Day from the Sandringham’s library.
|Badar, a ‘role model’ for his juniors, signs autographs at IIHM. Picture by Bhubaneswarananda Halder
Or the Royal Ascot, the race course owned by the Queen. “At times, we footmen have to be on the royal carriages and assist the guests on and off the carriages on the occasion of the Royal Ascot,” explained Badar.
Or perhaps at Balmoral (Castle), where the Queen is at present for her annual summer sojourn, an outing that Badar had to miss, because before that his royal stint was cut short, forcing his return to India, end-July.
His abrupt exit gave rise to several questions being raised by the world media, who camped outside his Beniapukur home, only for Badar to state that his visa had expired and so he had to leave London.
Flashback to 2008 and Badar was just another student at IIHM, like any of the first-year students attending his address on Wednesday, wearing the institute’s blue-and-silver uniform tie.
His professor Bitan Bose, who introduced him to the students at the felicitation, described him as an “obedient student and a fast learner”.
Sanjukta Bose, the director of the hotel management institution, recalled the first day when Badar was introduced by a gentleman from St. Mary’s Orphanage and Day School, that funded Badar’s education. “Badar wanted to do his third year of hotel management in the UK. He came across as a nice, quiet boy, very disciplined,” she said.
A glimpse of that discipline was evident by the way Badar carried himself on Wednesday, his voice barely raising pitch and hands neatly folded in front. Almost as if he was in London SW1A 1AA and not EP Block, Salt Lake.
Badar’s address was met with cheers from the students as their “role model” gave them more reason to believe in their dreams. “This felicitation is not about Badar, not about IIHM, it’s about bringing a role model in front of all of you because we all have dreams... passion to succeed. He’s an example of one of you,” said Suborno Bose, chairman, IndiSmart Group, the parent company of IIHM.
Badar’s words of advice for his juniors? “You don’t become a manager straight out of college. You have to start from ground level because you have to learn the job. And it is very important that you have that motivation. When I knew that I was going to UK, I knew it was an amazing opportunity and that something would definitely happen. My biggest plus point was I had a degree and there were others who didn’t.”
He may be 5’7” but his dreams couldn’t be taller. After The Telegraph carried an article on Badar’s return to Calcutta last month, the GM of Taj Bengal, K. Mohanchandran, got in touch with the young man, offering — after talks with his colleagues at Taj’s London property, 51 Buckingham Gate — a “possible” position there. “It’s a very good opportunity to go back to UK. I haven’t said yes or no, I really want to have some time with family,” said Badar on Wednesday, who’s hoping “something will come through”.
But don’t be royally surprised if Saudi Arabia is the next stop for Badar Azim.