WHEN Joe Biden was elected as a “kid” US senator in 1972, one of the first letters he received was from Mumbai, with the sender having the same surname as his.
The ‘Biden from Mumbai’ congratulated the senator from Delaware, and claimed they were related to each other.
Biden, then 29, wanted to follow up on the letter and get in touch with the ‘Biden from Mumbai’. However, that wish remained a wish — something the Democratic presidential candidate still wants to fulfil nearly five decades later.
Biden, 77, seldom misses a chance to narrate the ‘Biden from Mumbai’ story when he meets Indian-Americans or Indian leaders.
The former vice president makes it a point to tell them that he, too, has an “India connection”, however, distant that might be.
In his address to the Bombay Stock Exchange, Mumbai, in 2013 during his maiden visit to India as US vice president, Biden said: “It’s an honour to be back in India and to be here in Mumbai. Off script for a second here, I was reminded… one of the first letters I received and I regret I never followed up on it…. Maybe, some genealogist in audience can follow up for me… I received a letter from a gentleman named Biden — Biden, my name — from Mumbai, asserting that we were related.
“Seriously. Suggesting that our mutual, great, great, great, something or other worked for the East India Trading Company back in the 1700s and came to Mumbai.
“And so I was thinking about it, if that’s true, I might run here in India for office. I might be qualified. But I’ve never followed up on it.”
Two years later at another speech in Washington DC, Biden said he had traced the Mumbai link to “our mutual great, great, great grandfather, 1848, who was a British captain in the East India Tea Company”.
“And he married, I believe, an Indian woman. And he settled in India,” Biden said in his address to the US India Business Council in 2015.
He added that a Indian reporter eventually gave him “the names of five Bidens in Mumbai”.
“So, show me more respect,” Biden quipped.
“You know what I mean? I didn’t realise I had so many… And I haven’t actually followed up and embarrassed the Bidens in Mumbai. But the point is, it makes it even clearer what a small, small world this is and how this global economy is suited for, quite frankly, the two largest democracies in the world.”