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Thulasendhirapuram celebrates as Kamala Harris makes history

NARAYANAN V Chennai | Updated on November 08, 2020 Published on November 08, 2020

A file photo of Kamala Harris   -  REUTERS

Kamala Harris is first woman, first black woman and the first South Asian woman to win the second highest US office

For the 8,000-odd people in Thulasendhirapuram Painganadu village in Tiruvarur district, Diwali has arrived a week early.

“Our entire village is in a celebratory mood. We were all awake the whole night. Everyone was glued to their television to watch our daughter win one of the most prestigious positions in the United States,” Arulmozhi Sudhakar, the local village head told BusinessLine over phone trying to keep her voice above the loud noise of crackers and cheering in the background.

The village in the southern part of Tamil Nadu is the birth place of PV Gopalan - maternal grandfather of the US Vice-President elect Kamala Harris, who often recalls her formative walks with her grandfather on the beaches of Chennai.

 

Harris (56) on Saturday made history by becoming the first woman, first black woman, the first woman from South Asian descent and the first daughter of immigrants to win the second highest US office.

“It will be the most memorable Diwali ever for our village. On one side, ISRO made us proud by successfully launching satellites and on the other side a descendant from our village made us proud by winning the highest position in America,” Sudhakar said. “All our homes are decorated with colourful rangolis. We have planned a special pooja at the Sri Dharma Sastha Ayyanar temple in Thulasendrapuram as a thanksgiving gesture, distributing sweets, burst crackers and also a vehicle rally across the village,” she added.

The sleepy village hit the global limelight ever since Harris was nominated as the running mate of the US President-elect Joe Biden. Last week, the villagers erected several banners in Tamil wishing Harris' and Democratic Party’s victory in the presidential election.

Thrilled, says aunt

Meanwhile, telephone bells at Harris’ aunt Dr Sarala Gopalan - whom Harris fondly calls as Chithi (mother's younger sister) - has been constantly ringing with wishes and congratulatory messages from friends and relatives. “We felt so thrilled to hear about her victory but we are all missing my sister (Harris' mother Shyamala Gopalan),” Sarala said, choking up.

“Usually we go there (the US) with family. Even when she was elected as a Senator, our family with my elder brother, his daughter and my younger sister and her husband from Canada went to see her swearing-in ceremony. This time too we are planning to go,” Sarala, a gynaecologist and obstetrician in Chennai added.

Before contesting in any major elections, Harris would often call her Chithi to break 108 coconuts at the Varasiddhi Vinayagar Temple at Besant Nagar in Chennai, in a ritual that symbolises overcoming all obstacles and breaking free.

Speaking to BusinessLine after Harris' nomination as the running mate for Democratic party presidential nominee Joe Biden in August, Sarala recalled how Harris would call her every time to say her prayers worked and she had won those contests.

Even while accepting the Democratic nomination for Vice President, Harris said that she had been taught to ‘put family first' and added that “Family is my uncles, my aunts and my chittis.”

PM Modi’s message

In his congratulatory message, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also highlighted her fondness to her aunts by tweeting, “Heartiest congratulations @KamalaHarris! Your success is pathbreaking, and a matter of immense pride not just for your chittis, but also for all Indian-Americans.”

Harris never shied away from highlighting her Indian roots. She would often recall the profound influence of her mother in shaping her thought process and career in various campaign speeches as well as in her memoir ‘The Truths We Hold’.

“When she came here from India at the age of 19. She may not have quite imagined this moment. But she believed so deeply in America, where a moment like this is possible. And so I'm thinking about her,” Harris said on Sunday during her victory speech.

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Published on November 08, 2020
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