When Queen Victoria was in reign, her courtiers planned a mutiny against her. They planned to strike if she took Abdul Karim, a 24-year-old Indian Muslim from India, on a royal trip with her. Queen Victoria swept the contents off of her table in a fit of frenzy and the deliverer of the message about the strike fled. Karim travelled with the queen and there was no strike.

This is just one of the interesting stories that journalist and author Shrabani Basu relayed on the show. How did she know this? While writing and researching for her non-fiction book ‘Victoria and Abdul’, Shrabani was granted access to journals, diaries and letters, some that had been unopened for 100 years!

Shrabani combines her love of history with journalism which is evident in many of her non-fiction writings. Her journalistic nose meant that she found and explored the controversial story of the queen and Karim, where one parchment showed that she described Karim as ‘handsome’.

Surely touching upon such a controversial topic had to be handled sensitively with some political correctness?! Shrabani, however, told the story how it is and footnoted every quote used.

In some ways, Shrabani’s controversial nature mirrored Queen Victoria’s. The queen was a woman ahead of her times having learnt to read and write Urdu – a language taught by her ‘munshi’, or language teacher Karim.

She took on her courtiers, disregarded all criticism of her munshi and actually built a cottage for Karim in Balmoral.

Rumours say that there was more than a professional relationship between the queen and Karim, and this is something Shrabani supports after her research. There were two Indian Muslim servants sent to the queen as gifts but she chose the good-looking one!

He also represented the lure and exoticism of India where the queen had always longed to go. He was from Agra and fed her romantic stories so she lived in a fantasy land and bubble with him.

Shrabani stated she thinks the monarchy today has stagnated when it comes to multiculturalism in the royal family. However, she does believe Prince Charles tries to reach out to other faiths and is interested in Sufism.

Talking of heroic women ahead of their times, Shrabani also wrote ‘Spy Princess’, another non-fiction telling the story of Noor Inayat Khan, descendent of Tipu Sultan, and secret agent in WWII. In 1943, she worked in France as a radio operator undercover, but was found out and then taken to Auschwitz where she was shot.

As part of her research, Shrabani visited Inayat Khan’s place of burial and spoke to Inayat Khan’s family to really piece together the puzzle of her life and bring it to reality for others to relive.

And people really did connect with the story as Shrabani received letters from women around the world saying how the strength of Inayat Khan helped them through their own difficulties.

As a result, Shrabani campaigned for the resurrection of her memorial which was successful and unveiled by Princess Anne. The Noor Inayat Khan memorial is the first of an Asian woman in Britain.

Shrabani briefly discussed her book ‘Curry’ which traces history of curry from the days of the Raj to the emergence of first curry houses in Britain in C19th.

The first Indian curry house in Britain opened in 1810 by Dean Mohammed and was very high-end but that did not last long! He advertised in The Times so was very entrepreneurial.

Spices were very exotic at the time and curry houses were received very well. So well, that now curry is one of the most popular dishes in Britain!

In the second half of the show, I spoke with British singer-song writer, award-winning sitar player, and graduate in PHD Neuroscience of Creativity Shama Rahman.

Her music incorporates very genres, is extremely experimental and unique in its conceptualisation with a focus on time and consciousness. She marries jazz, folk, classical Indian, Western, and Drum and Bass to name a few in a single piece and tells her story through her music. She also explores how the conscious is affected by time.

It is not only her music that tells a story, but listener’s interaction with the music also tells a story. If you press ‘Shuffle’ on your iPod, you can create your own journey. The artwork that accompanies her music also fits with her story-telling and is influenced by Naive Surrealism and Dahli.

Along with watching some of her music videos, Shama graced us with her beautiful, soulful voice that encompassed all those genres.

As well as singing, Shama also plays a range of instruments. She began by learning piano and then went on to playing the sitar which is an instrument she describes as broad, with bass, treble, and portrays feeling to bring out one’s personality.

I wondered if focusing on various cultures, genres and concepts in one single piece of meant that one became displaced. But Shama explained how every composition stems from poetry and the lyrics dictate the mood so it all becomes integrated.

Shama’s music is clearly very experimental and a fusion of concepts. This experimenting extends to her love for tech and incorporating the use of technology in her musical composition.

The unique nature of her music, profession and being a woman made me question how difficult her journey has been. Shama explained that she was always interested in technology and science, and married her passion for music with both of these. “Music ended up being a passion I couldn’t ignore”. So she advised all to follow their passion and dreams.

Both Shrabana and Shama will feature in this year’s Alchemy Festival at the Southbank Centre, London. Alchemy is in its sixth year and showcases the best of dance, music, theatre, design, fashion, comedy and literature from the UK and South Asia.