Sets twitter abuzz with “Chitthis for America!!!!!”
As Kamala Harris accepted her historic nomination as Democratic vice presidential candidate, she fondly remembered one unsung woman — her India born mother — who helped her attain these dizzy heights.
“That I am here tonight is a testament to the dedication of generations before me,” said the first black and Indian-American woman to figure on the national party ticket of a major American political party.
She named several Black women that “paved the way for the trailblazing leadership of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and “inspired us to pick up the torch, and fight on.”
“We’re not often taught their stories. But as Americans, we all stand on their shoulders,” she said. “There’s another woman, whose name isn’t known, whose story isn’t shared.”
“Another woman whose shoulders I stand on. And that’s my mother—Shyamala Gopalan Harris” who “came here from India at age 19 to pursue her dream of curing cancer.”
“At the University of California Berkeley, she met my father, Donald Harris—who had come from Jamaica to study economics,” Harris said.
“They fell in love in that most American way—while marching together for justice in the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
“In the streets of Oakland and Berkeley, I got a stroller’s-eye view of people getting into what the great John Lewis called ‘good trouble,’” recalled Harris.
When she was 5, her “parents split and my mother raised us mostly on her own” working “around the clock to make it work.”
“She made it look easy, though I know it never was,” Harris said. “My mother instilled in my sister, Maya, and me the values that would chart the course of our lives.”
Her mother, Harris said had “raised us to be proud, strong Black women”, “proud of our Indian heritage” and “to put family first” including “my uncles, my aunts—my chitthis” while looking at the “world beyond ourselves.”
“She raised us to be proud, strong Black women. And she raised us to know and be proud of our Indian heritage,” Harris said. “She taught us to put family first—the family you’re born into and the family you choose.”
“Family, is my husband Doug, who I met on a blind date set up by my best friend. Harris said. “Family is our beautiful children, Cole and Ella, who as you just heard, call me Momala.”
“Family is my sister. Family is my best friend, my nieces and my godchildren. Family is my uncles, my aunts—my chitthis,” she said using the Tamil word for mother’s younger sister.
“And even as she taught us to keep our family at the center of our world, she also pushed us to see a world beyond ourselves,” Harris said.
“She taught us to be conscious and compassionate about the struggles of all people,” Harris said. “To believe public service is a noble cause and the fight for justice is a shared responsibility.”
“My mother taught me that service to others gives life purpose and meaning,” she said. “And oh, how I wish she were here tonight but I know she’s looking down on me from above.”
“I keep thinking about that 25-year-old Indian woman—all of five feet tall—who gave birth to me at Kaiser Hospital in Oakland, California,” Harris said.
“On that day, she probably could have never imagined that I would be standing before you now speaking these words: I accept your nomination for Vice President of the United States of America.”
“I do so, committed to the values she taught me. To the Word that teaches me to walk by faith, and not by sight,” said Harris.
Her reference to “chitthi” set the desi Twitter abuzz and spiked the search for “chitthi” on Google.
Harris’ niece Meena too joined the twitterati with a one liner: “Chittis for America!!!!!”
“I literally have tears in my eyes,” wrote Padma Lakshmi, noted Indian-American television host. “@KamalaHarris just said “chithis” which means auntie. My heart is so full right now.”
“My South Indian pride welled up when Kamala Harris said “chitthis.” Tamil for mother’s younger sister, ” tweeted Sangeetha Sarma, a new voter.
“It’s a pretty great first – especially as I get to vote as a new citizen for the first time in a presidential election.”
“The next Vice President of the United States of America just gave a shout-out to her Chitthis – MY TAMILIAN GOOSEBUMPS,” wrote Divya Mouli.