December 4, 2021

‘Son-in-law’ of India, Boris Johnson’s strong Sikh connection

UK’s PM, Boris Johnson with his wife, Marina Wheeler

By Gurbir Singh:

The colourful British politician, Boris Johnson who called himself once as the son-in-law ‘of India is the first British PM ever to have a strong connection to the Sikhs or to India.

The ‘unconventional’ PM Johnson – whom Simon Bridges, NZ’s National party leader described yesterday as having ‘buffoon-like quality’, is married to Marina Wheeler, a half-Sikh and mother of their four children.

Marina Wheeler, 55, is the daughter of the then BBC’s Delhi correspondent, Sir Charles Wheeler and his second wife, Dip Singh (an Indian Sikh) who married in Delhi in 1961.

Dip Singh who is still alive, is the niece of late Indian editor and legendary writer, Khushwant Singh,and grand-daughter of Sir Sobha Singh who built Lutyens’s Delhi.

According to Rahul Singh, a veteran journalist and Khushwant Singh’s son, Marina  was married to his father’s youngest brother, Daljit Singh who was also a national junior tennis champion.

“The marriage did not last long and they had no children. Then, Dip met and fell in love with the distinguished BBC correspondent in New Delhi, Sir Charles Wheeler. They had two daughters, Marina and Shirin,” wrote Rahul Singh in The Tribune recently.

Marina married Boris Johnson in 1993, but last year they announced their separation after 25 years of marriage.

In his open letter addressed to the Indian diaspora in Britain recently, Boris Johnson described himself as the ‘son-in-law’ of India by virtue of his now estranged wife, Marina Wheeler’s Indian mother.  

Marina is known to have several Indian cousins in Delhi and Mumbai, since her mother’s sister was married to her former husband’s eldest brother. In other words, the sisters married two brothers.

It is understood Marina has kept close touch with her family in India and often visits that country and Rahul Singh confirmed she is writing a book on her family. 

As a result of Johnson’s marriage to Marina and her Indian connection, both made several visits to India and her extended family and descendants.

The newly-elected British PM often earlier referred to “my Indian relatives” that included his estranged wife Marina’s extended family of Sikh faith. 

Johnson once got into a bit of trouble for one his gaffe during the 2017 election when he was a Foreign Secretary.

Wearing a saffron turban on his head, he addressed a gathering at a Bristol gurdwara (Sikh temple) and remarked about having to carry duty-free Scotch whisky for his relatives whenever he visits India.

“Whenever we go to India, to Mumbai or to Delhi, we have to bring ‘clinkie’ in our baggage.

“We have to bring Johnnie Walker, we have to bring whiskey because as you may know there is duty of 150 per cent in India on imports of Scotch whiskey, so we have to bring it in duty free for our relatives…”

As alcohol is generally a taboo for followers of Sikh faith, an angry woman devotee reportedly told Johnson: “How dare you talk about alcohol in a Sikh temple.”

Now, that he is separated from his wife of 25 years, and his dream of occupying 10 Downing St. fulfilled, India is hoping that this ‘son-in-law’ of India will continue his special relationship with that country.