Badar Azim, 25, came to the UK thanks to an orphanage scholarship
He found himself taking a lead role in announcing Prince George’s birth
His family of nine live in just two rooms back in India
Gethin Chamberlain, for The Mail on Sunday, in Calcutta, 27 July 2013
He began life in a slum apartment in the backstreets of Calcutta, yet rose to become the Royal footman who announced Prince George’s birth to an expectant nation.
To the cheers of thousands of people standing patiently outside Buckingham Palace, it was Badar Azim who strode proudly across the courtyard with the Queen’s Press Secretary Ailsa Anderson to mount the official acknowledgement of the baby’s safe arrival on an ornate easel.
Resplendent in his scarlet and black footman?s outfit, the uniform gave no clue to his humble background.
It is hard to imagine a prouder moment for a young man who has worked his way up from one of the most poverty-stricken corners of the world.
It was a mere twist of fate that Badar, 25, happened to be on duty at the Privy Purse door after the Duchess of Cambridge gave birth to the third in line to the Throne.
But this simple coincidence seems fitting in a 21st Century fairytale that has delighted his impoverished family in India.
Badar’s father Mohammed Rahim, a 52-year-old welder who earns £33 a month, and his mother Mumtaz Begum, 41, still live in the same slum dwelling in a rundown area of Calcutta where Badar spent his childhood. They are overwhelmed to be thrown into the spotlight thanks to their son’s success.
But according to the footman’s brother Mazhar, 20, who spoke to him after his starring role in delivering the news of the Royal birth, Badar himself has taken the whole experience in his stride.
Joyous occasion: Badar Azim, right, enjoyed a proud moment announcing the birth on Monday
“He acted very normal about it but it was a proud moment for him,” said Mazhar. “My parents are so proud. They knew nothing about the British Royal Family before he got the job. They were really surprised.
“We did not know about any of it beforehand. We only read about it in the newspapers. My parents think Badar is blessed.”
Standing in their dank, two-room home, which is shared between nine members of their extended family including Badar?s other brother, 14-year-old Md Sameer, the footman?s mother added: “I am feeling on top of the world.”
To give you an idea of just how far Badar has travelled in his 25 years, just getting inside his family home requires negotiating several water-logged flights of stairs.
A bed dominates the shabby main room. In terms of other material assets, all the family own is a television and a couple of plastic chairs.
But although Badar’s father was barely able to afford to put food on the table, he valued the importance of education and scrimped and saved to send Badar to school.
“We were an economically challenged family,” said Mazhar quietly. “Our parents let us boys sleep on the bed and they slept on the floor. But my father wanted us to go to a good school so that we could learn.
“He even borrowed money so that we could go forward.”
After struggling at a public school in the city, Badar was taken in by the charitable St Mary’s Orphanage and Day School.
Run by the Congregation of Christian Brothers of Ireland, it aims to help the destitute, homeless and underprivileged. Badar thrived in his new environment.
“He is a funny guy and very creative,” added Mazhar. “He used to play sports a lot. He was very enthusiastic but also serious about his studies.”
The orphanage later sponsored Badar to go to the International Institute of Hotel Management College in Calcutta, where he embarked on a degree in hospitality management.
Sanjukta Bose, the director of the college, recalls an eager and diligent student. “He was a decent boy who never created any problems,” she said.
“He was well-mannered and a good communicator. He was also punctual, well-groomed and decent, which is essential for roles in hotel management.”
After completing his first two years at the Institute, the orphanage raised another £10,000 to fly Badar to Scotland, where he completed his degree at Edinburgh’s Napier University.
He lived in digs in the Scottish capital, where he cooked his own curries because he could not get used to British cuisine. During his final year at Napier, Badar organised a ten-mile charity walk to raise money for the orphanage’s sponsorship scheme.
He graduated on June 15, 2011, and landed a job as a junior footman at Buckingham Palace in February the following year.
“The conditions I live in now are so different from how I lived in India,” he said.
“The orphanage literally helps transform the lives of hundreds of children each year. The charity enabled me to come to Edinburgh and complete my studies – something others in India can only dream of.
“If I hadn’t gone to St Mary’s, I would be working somewhere on the streets of Calcutta. It would have been very difficult to get a job in India because unless you have a good degree, you will not get a good job and a good salary.”
Pauline Gordon, a lecturer at Edinburgh’s Napier University, who leads the India Partnership – a scheme to bring disadvantaged children from the subcontinent to Britain – said: “Badar is the sweetest of boys I have met.
“He’s particularly shy, quite reserved and old-fashioned. He’s also humble, polite and gracious.
“He used to call me Ma’am but I told him to call me Pauline so now he calls me Pauline Ma’am – and I am only his teacher!
“I got the shock of my life seeing him on television. I am so proud of him. He has done extremely well.
“It took him a good few months to get the job at the Palace – he had a first interview and then the staff had to check out his credentials in India.
“But he loves working at Buckingham Palace. He has been there for 18 months and has met the Queen.
“At the moment he’s trying to extend his visa to stay in the country.
“It runs out in October so he is trying to get the paperwork together and sort it out.”