India, Jamaica celebrate Kamala Harris’ win

Kamala Harris; photo credit: Office of the Attorney General, California

People in distant lands celebrate with pride one of their own reaching such heights.

The election of Kamala Harris, daughter of an Indian mother and Jamaican father, as US vice president set off joyous celebrations thousands of miles away in India and Jamaica.

Overjoyed people in Harris’ maternal grandfather’s village of Thulasendrapuram, about 200 miles from Chennai, set off firecrackers distributed sweets, and offered prayers at the local temple as they learnt about her victory.

Residents of the tiny village of about 350 people adorned with cutouts and posters wishing Harris a “grand success” sang, danced and set off firecrackers throughout Sunday, according to local media reports.

“Congratulations Kamala Harris. Pride of our village. Vanakkam (Greetings) America,” wrote a woman in traditional ‘rangoli’ or color powder outside her home.

READ: What Kamala Harris’ election means to me (November 9, 2020)

Tamil Nadu state Food Minister R. Kamraj led about 100 people at the Dharma Sastha temple for a 20-minute prayer during which the idol of Hindu deity Ayyanar, a form of Lord Shiva, was washed with milk and decked with flowers by the priest.

He chanted hymns after lighting oil lamps, and the villagers bowed their heads in respect.

The lush green village is the hometown of Harris’ maternal grandfather, P V Gopalan, a career civil servant, who had moved to Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu state, decades ago. Harris’ grandmother Rajam belonged to the nearby Painganadu village.

During the campaign, Harris referred to her family back in India using the Tamil word for aunts — “chittis” — to the delight of people in India and Indian Americans.

Congratulating Harris, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi too did not fail to remember her salute to her Indian heritage.

“Heartiest congratulations @KamalaHarris Your success is pathbreaking, and a matter of immense pride not just for your chittis, but also for all Indian-Americans,” he tweeted. “I am confident that the vibrant India-US ties will get even stronger with your support and leadership.”

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One of her chittis remembered how Kamala Harris grew up as a “good child” and how she always accomplished what she aimed for.

“We have always seen her (Kamala) grow up as a good child. She was very good at whatever she did and she has achieved what she wanted to do,” said Dr Sarala Gopalan, Chennai-based sister of Harris’ mother Shyamala.

“This is a big moment, no question about it,” said her uncle Gopalan Balachandran, 79, an academic based in New Delhi. “It’s good for the United States. It’s good for many people.”

Harris will be “a great asset to (President- elect Joe) Biden,” he said, adding: “Let’s not kid ourselves: What was at stake was whether the United States remains the United States.”

Balachandran recalled Shyamala, who died in 2009, told her two daughters, “Whatever you study or learn, see how you can use it for the good of society.”

Rahul Gandhi, India’s main opposition leader, offered his hearty congratulations. “It makes us proud that the first woman to serve as vice president of the USA traces her roots to India,” he wrote on Twitter.

M.K. Stalin, a political leader in the state of Tamil Nadu, expressed his delight that the American people had “chosen a woman with Tamil heritage as their next Vice-President in this historic election.”

There was similar pride in Jamaica, according to the Washington Post.

“To have one of our own reach one of the highest seats on the world stage is humbling and profound,” said Latoya Harris, 39, a policy analyst. She and the vice president-elect are second cousins.

Jamaica’s prime minister, Andrew Holness, saluted Harris’s “monumental accomplishment for women” as well as her Jamaican heritage.

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