By: Sarwar Alam
Residents set off firecrackers in the ancestral home of Kamala Harris on Sunday as India celebrated the vice president-elect’s victory in the US election, as others hailed her achievement as historic and a “proud moment” for the country.
Harris — daughter of breast cancer specialist Shyamala Gopalan from the southern Indian city of Chennai — paid tribute to her late mother, who “believed so deeply in an America where a moment like this is possible” in a national address with president-elect Joe Biden on Saturday.
At Thulasendrapuram village in Tamil Nadu state, once home to Harris’ maternal grandfather P.V. Gopalan, celebrations broke out with locals lighting firecrackers, praying at its main temple and waving posters bearing the 56-year-old’s face.
Women in the village made a rangoli — a colourful work of folk art drawn on the ground — with the words: “Congratulations to Kamala Harris.”
“It is a matter of pride for the entire womenfolk,” housewife Arul Mozhi Sudhakar told AFP.
Harris’s uncle, academic Balachandran Gopalan, said he always knew she would be successful.
“I am relieved, because I knew she’s going to win, and I told her yesterday… my tension is now gone away,” he told WION TV in the capital New Delhi.
Gopalan told AFP on Friday that Harris’ family in India would fly to the United States to attend her inauguration.
“We were together as a family when she was sworn in as senator. And we will all be together now during her swearing-in as vice president of the US. It’s a big moment for us,” he said.
In Delhi, people cheered the Harris family’s Indian origins. Yash Iyer, 25, told AFP “it’s a proud moment for us too as Indians since she traces her roots here”.
“Kamala Harris being the US VP is a monumental accomplishment not only for the US and Indians but for women across the globe,” Smitashree Mishra, who works in international health and development in the capital, told AFP.
“What I take away from this victory is a ray of hope, hope to stand strong in a society that constantly judges you on archaic notions of gender, race and ethnicity… I am proud as a woman to see another woman represent our perspective in the politics of the world’s most powerful country.”
Early Sunday, prime minister Narendra Modi congratulated Biden on his White House victory and called Harris a source of “immense pride”.
“Your success is pathbreaking, and a matter of immense pride not just for your chittis, but also for all Indian-Americans,” Modi wrote.
“Chitti” is a Tamil term of endearment for the younger sisters of one’s mother, which Harris used in her acceptance of the Democratic nomination for vice president.
Senior opposition Congress party figure Rahul Gandhi added on Twitter: “It makes us proud that the first woman to serve as vice president of the USA traces her roots to India.”
Sunday newspapers hailed the Democrats’ victory with front-page photos and stories featuring the pair.
Harris “creates history” as the first vice president-elect of Indian descent, The Sunday Express said along with the headline: “Finally.”