Human Interest

Indian village bursts in joy as Kamala Harris becomes US vice-president

Thulasendrapuram, India, Jan 20 (efe-epa).- The ancestral village of Kamala Harris in southern India wore a festive look on Wednesday as jubilant villagers burst firecrackers and distributed sweets to celebrate her becoming the vice president of the United States.

Harris, who traces her maternal roots to the tiny village of Thulasendrapuram, some 350 km (nearly 220 miles) south of the coastal city of Chennai, is the first woman, first Black American, and first person of South Asian origin to hold the second-most powerful post in the US.

Hours before she was to take her oath of office with President-elect Joe Biden, villagers held special prayers at a local Hindu temple and burst firecrackers to celebrate her creating history.

G. Manikandan, a 40-year-old small grocery shop owner, said villagers had been holding small gatherings over the last two days and organized a get-together on Wednesday to celebrate her accomplishment.

“I am very, very happy. We are all proud of the daughter of our soil,” Manikandan told EFE.

He said they had a feast of idli, vada, and sambar for the revelers to relish the South Indian delicacies – which are known to be Harris’ favorites.

“We also organized special prayers in a (Hindu) temple (on Wednesday morning). We pray to our lord for her to be the next president of the US,” said the shopkeeper who has displayed a calendar with Biden and Harris pictures on his storefront.

Hoardings, cutouts, posters congratulating Harris in Tamil adorned walls, trees, and pavements on the dusty roads of the village with more than two month-long celebration culminating on the day of her inauguration.

The village erupted into loud celebration after she was declared the winner in the Nov.3 US presidential polls.

On Tuesday, some villagers organized special prayers to ward off evil from the susceptible politician “daughter of the soil” amid security concerns ahead of the oath ceremony in the US capital of Washington.

Anukampa Madhavasimhan, a government teacher in her 50s, said the environment resembled a typical Indian festival in the village as residents gathered to mark the success of Harris.

“Some villagers have installed big banners to congratulate her with a hope that she finds some time in the next four years to visit us,” Madhavasimhan told EFE.

The village was home to Harris’ maternal grandfather PV Gopalan, a former Indian diplomat who served on an Indian diplomatic mission to Zambia.

Her mother, Shyamala Gopalan, who married Donald Jasper Harris, a Jamaican-American economist, immigrated to the US to study when she was 19 in the late 1950s. She made a career as a breast cancer researcher in the US.

The family was from a high-caste community of India known as “Tamil Brahmins” or the “Tambrahm.”

In a 2018 speech to an Indian-American group, Harris recalled how her grandfather would tell them about his life in colonial India.

“My grandfather was one of the most influential people in my life. My grandfather had a ritual with his buddies of walking on the beach (in Chennai) every morning. And my grandfather would let me walk with him during these walks.”

She remembered how the freedom movement activists used to speak “about the importance of democracy.”

“As I reflect on those moments in my life that have had the most impact on who I am today. I was not conscious of it at the time. But it was those walks on the beach with my grandfather in Besant Nagar that had a profound impact on who I am today.”

Harris has also spoken about how her mother raised her two daughters “with a very strong appreciation for our cultural background and pride.” EFE-EPA

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