Ancestral village in Tamil Nadu celebrates Kamala Harris' feat

Updated on Jan 21, 2021 07:41 AM IST

Villagers have been lighting fireworks and distributing sweets, while posters of Harris were pasted on the walls of the village, and children flashed placards featuring the first person of South Asian descent and the first woman to rise to the office of the US vice-president.

Harris had struck a chord with Tamil people when she called out to her “chithis” (‘aunts’ in Tamil) during a speech in August.(File Photo)
Harris had struck a chord with Tamil people when she called out to her “chithis” (‘aunts’ in Tamil) during a speech in August.(File Photo)
ByDivya Chandrababu

Far away from Washington, where Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were being sworn in as the next president and vice-president of the US, Thulasendhirapuram - Harris’s ancestral village in Tamil Nadu’s Tiruvarur district - was all decked up on Wednesday for an explosion of celebrations.

Villagers have been lighting fireworks and distributing sweets, while posters of Harris were pasted on the walls of the village, and children flashed placards featuring the first person of South Asian descent and the first woman to rise to the office of the US vice-president.

“We feel proud, as though India has won an Olympic gold medal,” said Vinod Pulavendran, a resident of the village. “It is common for Indians to become American citizens. But how often does an Indian become the vice-president of the US? She has put us on the map.”

The Dharmasastha Temple in Thulasendhirapuram conducted a special ritual for Harris on Wednesday. Her maternal grandfather, PV Gopalan, was born in this village and her family has been offering donations to the temple. Back in 2014, Harris’s late mother Shyamala Gopalan’s younger sister, Dr Sarala Gopalan, who lives in Chennai, had donated 5,000 in Harris’s name to the temple.

A board at the temple bears the name of Harris as a donor to the shrine. “We are planning to invite Kamala to the temple through her aunt,” said temple in-charge, S V Ramanan.

Since Biden announced Harris as his running mate in August 2020, the village has been holding special rituals. When the US election took place on November 3, local leaders offered free food to the poor while wishing Harris success. “Her victory is a motivation for the entire village,” said Arulmozhi Sudhakar, the village head. “We hope she visits us.”

Harris had struck a chord with Tamil people when she called out to her “chithis” (‘aunts’ in Tamil) during a speech in August.

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