‘Biden’s VP pick hasn’t forgotten her Indian roots’.
Kamala Harris’ ‘Chithi’, as she affectionately calls her aunt and her Indian family are thrilled at the Indian-American senator’s selection as Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s running mate.
“The family are all very happy, all of us,” Harris’ aunt, Sarala Gopalan, told CNN affiliate CNN News 18 when she was awoken at 4 am on Wednesday in Chennai, India, with the news.
A thrilled Sarala, who didn’t go back to sleep after getting the news, told another publication that her niece has not forgotten her roots and calls her ‘Chithi’ as the younger sister of one’s mother is addressed in Tamil.
But Harris’ maternal uncle G. Balachandran, who obtained a doctorate in economics and computer science from the University of Wisconsin, and now lives in India, wasn’t exactly surprised, according to CNN.
Once Biden said he was going to nominate a woman, Balachandran thought it was “very, very likely” it would be Harris based on her experience and background.
Balachandran told CNN on phone that he and Harris don’t speak that often, in large part due the distance and the demands of being a high-ranking US politician.
He joked that people in India who call Harris a “female Barack Obama” should now be calling the 44th US President a “male Kamala Harris.”
When asked if he had a message for his niece, Balachandran remembered something his sister Shyamala Gopalan used to say.
“Shyamala always said never sit still. If you can do something, do something,” he said. “Make Shyamala proud.”
Balachandran told CNN that his diplomat father P.V. Gopalan had strong views on humanitarian issues, which influenced her sister Shyamala’s upbringing. But that wasn’t exactly what the two siblings bonded over when they were younger.
Balachandran, 80, said he best remembers how he and his sister loved to play pranks and would get into trouble when they were younger and living in Mumbai. He remembers his father as stingy with advice and quiet but supportive.
Gopalan’s confidence in his children proved crucial when it came time for Shyamala to move to Berkeley to pursue a doctorate in nutrition and endocrinology in 1958.
Balachandran said at the time, she would have been one of the first 19-year-old single Indian woman to travel to the US to study because of conservative attitudes about the role of women in India.
But Harris’ grandparents were progressive for their time, Balachandran said. They offered to pay for the first year, and after that, Shyamala would have to make it on her own, which she did. “We were so happy,” Balachandran said.
Balachandran said his father was a bit warmer with his grandchildren, something Harris seems to reflect in her public comments about him.
When they asked him for counsel, P.V. Gopalan would tell his grandchildren, “I will give you advice, but do what you think is best, what you like most, and do it well,” Balachandran recalled.
Harris called her grandfather one of her “favorite people in the world,” in an interview with Los Angeles Times last year.
Meanwhile, Indian actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas congratulating Harris called it “a historical, transformational, and proud moment for all women.”
She took to Instagram and posted a picture of Harris in a purple suit, waving her hand.
“This is a historical, transformational, and proud moment for all women,” she wrote. “All women of color, all Black women, and all South Asian women. Congratulations @kamalaharris on becoming the first Black woman and FIRST PERSON of Indian descent to compete on a major U.S. party’s presidential ticket. #representationmatters?
“PS: To my younger self – look how far we have come!” Chopra added.
Tamil Nadu state deputy chief minister O Panneerselvam congratulating Harris described it as “a moment of pride for Indians” and the state.
“It is a moment of pride for Indians and Tamil Nadu especially, as Kamala Harris, the first Indian senator, whose mother hails from Tamil Nadu has been nominated as the Vice Presidential candidate by the US Democratic party. My hearty wishes to her,” he tweeted.
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