Kamala Harris, as Vice President-elect of the United States, made history as the first woman, first Black person, and the first person of South-Asian origin to be elected to the post. To cheer her win, celebrations have erupted in her maternal ancestral village in Tamil Nadu. Marking the occasion, Harris’ chithi (maternal aunt) Dr Sarala Gopalan, said the family was “overjoyed that she has scripted history.” She also mentioned how Harris had been a “good child” and was always “good at whatever she did.” Dr Gopalan, a Chennai-based doctor, is Harris’ mother Shyamala Gopalan’s younger sister.
We have always seen her (Kamala Harris) grow up as a good child. She was very good at whatever she did & she has achieved what she wanted to do: Dr Sarala Gopalan, maternal aunty of US Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, in Chennai (8.11) pic.twitter.com/Y1aoqVo7To
— ANI (@ANI) November 9, 2020
Harris, who has invoked her mother and Indian roots in several public speeches, including her Vice Presidential victory speech, has been vocal about her desi descent. Dr Gopalan, reacting to her niece’s win, recalled Harris’ India visits, “I am a doctor and I used to work in Chandigarh. Kamala has visited us a number of times in Chandigarh.” The last time Harris came to India was “with her sister Maya soon after their mother passed away. It was my sister’s wish that her ashes should be immersed in Chennai and they made a trip for that.” Shyamala Gopalan, was a leading breast cancer researcher, who passed away in 2009.
Gopalan Balachandran, Harris’ maternal uncle, has said he will join Harris in the US for the swearing-in ceremony in January 2021. He was quoted saying, “I will tell her what anyone’s parents would tell their kids. She has been doing everything well. If she does anything wrong, I would definitely ask her to change but I have no disagreement with her. And I definitely would tell her to keep up the good work.”
“My sister would have cried out of happiness,” says Harris’ aunt
Harris, who has a multicultured background, is the daughter of a Jamaican father and Indian mother who met in the US in the 1960s. Shyamala Gopalan raised her two daughters as a single mother, instilling in them a pride for their mixed roots. Time and again, Harris has emphasised the significance her mother held in her life, and how she raised her sister and her to be “proud, strong Black women. And she raised us to know and be proud of our Indian heritage.”
Following Harris’ win, Dr Gopalan said, “We are very happy and thrilled. I miss my sister Shyamala, who made Kamala what she is today; she would’ve broken down and cried out of happiness… We knew she was going to win, but we didn’t know when it would be declared. We haven’t spoken with Kamala yet, but her accomplishment means a lot to the family.”
Harris’ Ancestral Tamil Nadu Village Celebrates
Harris’ maternal village of Thulasendrapuram in Tamil Nadu had been praying for her win in the run-up to the election results. Read more on it here. Now that she has won, the village residents are busy celebrating with crackers, rangolis, and celebratory posters.
— Poornima Murali (@nimumurali) November 8, 2020
Early Sunday morning, firecrackers went off and prayers were held in Thulasendrapuram, India, the ancestral village of VP-elect Kamala Harris, to celebrate her making history to become the first female, Black and South Asian American to win the second-highest U.S. office pic.twitter.com/u4XPhUfbnw
— CBS News (@CBSNews) November 8, 2020
Image Credit: Hindu Business Line