The unlikely friendship between Roy Moxham, a British writer, and India’s ‘bandit queen’, Phoolan Devi, is the subject of a new book that claims to be the only account of the former MP’s life after her release from jail in 1994.
The book is based on extensive correspondence between the two, even though Devi did not know English. She dictated her replies to Moxham’s letters and the two became friends. Titled India’s Bandit Queen and Me, the book, writer Moxham says, “above all, this is the story of a friendship”.
Narrating the course of events that led to his friendship with one of the most feared dacoits at one time, Moxham says: “In 1992 I did a very strange thing. I wrote to Phoolan Devi, who was languishing in an Indian jail.She had surrendered under a deal that should have led to her release the previous year.”
He adds: “Although illiterate, she dictated a reply and we corresponded regularly. I gave her some help and advice. Phoolan was finally released in 1994. I met her in India that year and we became friends. On my many visits to India in the following years I stayed and travelled with her.”
Moxham, a former book conservator and lecturer, spends most of his time living in London and travelling in India. He is the author of Tea - Addiction Exploitation and Empire (2003) and The Great Hedge of India (2001).
“She was an amazingly cheerful woman given all the trauma she had experienced in her life. She was always smiling and cracking jokes even though she had a harsh and poverty-stricken childhood and was victim of what I believe was a serious miscarriage of justice -- for which she spent nine years in jail,” BBC quoted Moxham as saying while recalling his association with her.