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Nikki Haley’s kin in native Punjab cheer as Trump picks her as US envoy to UN

Haley’s parents hail from rural Punjab; they moved to Amritsar before emigrating to North America in the early 1960s. Haley, 44, was born Nimrata Randhawa in Bamberg, South Carolina. She was called “Nikki” as a child and took the family name of husband Michael when they married in Sikh and Methodist ceremonies in 1996.

punjab Updated: Nov 24, 2016 22:18 IST
Nikki Haley,Donald Trump,Indian-origin
A family photo of Nikki Haley (right) and her brother, Charanjit Singh Randhawa, in the album of her relatives in Amritsar.

Elated after President-elect Donald Trump named South Carolina’s Indian-American governor Nikki Haley as the US ambassador to the United Nations on Wednesday, her extended family in Punjab says the development has not only elevated her political status but also made India proud.

Busy receiving congratulatory calls and visitors at his house in Verka near Amritsar on Thursday, 70-year-old Kanwaljit Singh Randhawa, who is Nikki’s cousin, said: “It’s a great achievement (for Nikki), and it has made the entire nation proud. We had never imagined she will bring so much name and fame to the family.”

Nikki’s father and Randhawa’s paternal uncle Ajit Singh Randhawa, a professor in agriculture, moved to Canada for pursuing PhD in 1964 before shifting to the US. The family originally hails from Pandori Ran Singh village in Tarn Taran, 23 km from Amritsar, said Randhawa, a retired lecturer. “Nikki, 44, was born in the US and named Nimrata,” he said.

Haley’s cousin Kanwaljit Singh Randhawa and family celebrating her getting picked as US ambassador to the United Nations, at their residence in Verka, Amritsar, on Thursday. (Sameer Sehgal/HT Photo)
Haley’s relatives with her family photos at their residence in Verka, Amritsar, on Thursday.. (Sameer Sehgal/HT Photo)

Randhawa, who is in constant touch with his uncle, said: “He (Nikki’s father) told me she always wanted to be a politician. The first big milestone for her was the election to the post of South Carolina governor in 2011. Now, this (US ambassador to UN) is even bigger. It proves she has become a very credible politician in the US and the government has full faith in her.”

For Randhawa, Nikki’s elevated position may translate into a big boon for India in the UN. “At such a young age, she (Nikki) will be representing the US in the UN . She will obviously work in the US’ interests, but I feel as she has a soft corner for India, she may also help India in the UN in a big way,” he said.

Randhawa’s daughter-in-law Manjot Kaur shared his elation. “We are really excited that someone from our family has achieved so much. Everyone who is calling us to congratulate is asking when is Nikki coming to India,” she said.

On Nikki’s second visit to India in 2014 — nearly four decades after she first came here at an age of three — Randhawa didn’t get an opportunity to spend much time with her. “I got very little time to meet her (Nikki) when she came to Amritsar in 2014. I went to the hotel where she was staying but had to leave early due to security reasons,” he said, adding that his wife and he plan to visit Nikki in June next year.

First Published: Nov 24, 2016 18:46 IST