But it was his talent for music which really startled her. Once, while Farok's parents were visiting, his mother began playing the piano and he copied it right away. "He was so small that he had to turn the stool up on its end to reach the keys," says Mrs Khory. "Then he began the tune that his mother had just played. I asked him who taught him and he replied that he'd heard mummy playing it. "Then another time he was listening to the radio. It was Indian music and when it was over he played the same tune. Still, we didn't believe he could do it right off like that. We thought someone must be teaching him.
"But he did once more and we realised he had real talent. That's when his parents arranged for him have special music lessons at school. He must have been about nine or ten." By his mid-teens, there was only one slight concern. Though still neatly groomed, and with his black hair clipped respectfully short, young Farok Bulsara was among a small group of pupils who had cottoned on to a disturbing new import from Western society: rock'n'roll. Supplementing their shirts with bootlace ties and sporting dark sunglasses, the boys had even gone as far as forming the school's first pop group, daringly named The Hectics after Farok's flamboyant piano playing style. About this time his excellent academic record began to falter.
Although the boys were never allowed to perform outside school, Nariman Khory recalls what was probably Farok's first public performance when the family went for dinner and the band at an Italian restaurant struck up How Much Is That Doggy In The Window. Aware that Farok was humming along, a member of the band asked him to join in and he took to the stage and sang. "After the song he was all flushed and shy, but while he was on the stage you could see that he had presence, even at that age," says Nariman.
Some 15 years later, the boy's name having been changed to Freddie Mercury and the piano switched for a twirling microphone stand, his showmanship was to become the trademark of the world's most successful glam-rock band, Queen. By then all traces of India had been removed. Though his aquiline nose, flinty eyes and deep olive complexion gave him a Latino or vaguely Oriental look, few of his many millions of fans ever guessed they were hero-worshipping the first Asian pop star.
Mercury was certainly not about to alert them to the fact. In the few personal interviews that he granted, he deliberately obscured his past, divulging only that hailed from Zanzibar. Some biographers even referred to him as Persian - which, since the Parsees resettled in the Bombay region around the ninth century and consider themselves Indian, is stretching the truth. What brought Mercury to Europe was changing face of African politics. Fearful that their comfortable position might be jeopardised by Zanzibar's independence, Bomi and Jer joined thousands of Asian families seeking a secure future in prosperous Britain. Along with 17-year old Farok and his sister Kashmira, 10 they packed their belongings and arrived in decidedly unexotic Feltham, a London dormitory town under the Heathrow flight-path.
As they moved into Gladstone Avenue, a dreary cul-de-sac of 1930's semi-detached houses, residents peeping through their frilly net curtains at the area's first influx of Asian immigrants raised eyebrows at Jer's traditional sari. The unfamiliar scent of spices wafting from the kitchen window further aroused their suspicion. If their neighbours found themselves lapsing into prejudice, their fears were soon allayed.Within a month, recalls Derick Burgess, who lived nearby, the Bulsaras looked every inch the English family.
The Bulsaras maintained links with the Parsee community. During holidays from Marks & Spencer's Hounslow branch, where she rose to supervisor, Jer returned with Bomi -who worked for an airline-to visit Freddie's grandfather, a respected priest in their home town