Already bursting with pride at US vice president-elect Kamala Harris’ ancestry, India has now started digging up potential local roots for US president-elect Joe Biden.
The next leader of the US has speculated that he might have had relatives in colonial India. While there is no proof, the Biden name has become a genealogical target of investigation across the country.
A plaque commemorating 19th-century British ship captain Christopher Biden has become a popular selfie spot in the eastern city of Chennai since the US election, and a Biden family in western India says that it has become “exhausted” by calls since their namesake staked his claim to the White House.
The US vote has been under the spotlight in India because Joe Biden’s running mate is the daughter of a migrant from Tamil Nadu state.
Fifty-six-year-old Harris has made much of her Indian connections and how she likes to eat “idli with a really good sambar” — typical food from the south.
Less attention has been paid to Joe Biden, who has established Irish links, but he spoke of possible Indian connections on a trip to Mumbai in 2013 when he was vice president.
Joe Biden said in a speech that he had received a letter from an Indian Biden after becoming a US senator in 1972, suggesting that they could be related.
“One of the first letters I received, and I regret I never followed up on it,” he said.
The letter said that their “mutual, great, great, great, something or other worked for the East India Trading Co back in the 1700s.”
It sparked excitement in Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu state, which is also home to Harris’ Indian relatives.
A plaque at St George’s Cathedral in Chennai that celebrates Christopher Biden, born in 1789, has suddenly become a local tourist draw.
“We’ve come to know the records of two Bidens — William Biden and Christopher Biden — who were brothers and became captains of the East India Co on merchant ships in the 19th century,” said Reverend J. George Stephen, the Bishop of Madras.
Stephen said that “while William Biden died at an early age, Christopher Biden went on to captain several ships and eventually settled down in Madras,” which is now known as Chennai.
Despite the speculation, there has been no confirmation that the Biden brothers are related to the 77-year-old US president-elect.
If Joe Biden does have an Indian ancestor, Christopher is considered the most likely candidate, said experts who have studied family records.
There are also Bidens in Mumbai and Nagpur in Maharashtra state who could be descendants of Christopher Biden, one of eight children of a John Biden who could be the common link.
The media attention has been overwhelming, according to the Maharashtra Bidens.
Indian media has speculated that their late grandfather Leslie wrote to the US politician.
Rowena Biden, a family member in Mumbai, said that they are not trying to establish any relationship.
“We wish Mr Joe Biden all the best for his new role as president of the USA, but we are not trying to establish any connections or linkages,” she said. “We share a last name and that’s about it.”
“All of us are well-to-do financially and have well-settled lives so we don’t need any gains — monetary or non-monetary,” she added.
Rowena Biden said that after the first reports came out about the possible links, “people started tracking us to our house and everyone in the family had to bear the brunt of it.”
The “undue limelight” had cast a shadow over “the primacy of Mr Biden’s win and our privacy as well,” she said.
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