‘Pride of our village’: India lauds Kamala Harris historic win

USA's vice president-elect represents a new generation of leadership

‘Pride of our village’: India lauds Kamala Harris historic win

The historic win of Kamala Harris in the US vice presidential race represents many firsts: not only is she the first Black and first woman to ascend to the second highest office in the land. She’s also the first Indian American and first Asian American to do so.

On Sunday, as Harris and her running mate US president-elect Joe Biden emerged as the projected winners, residents of the small village in India where Harris traces her roots celebrated her victory with music, prayers and fireworks.

“Congratulations Kamala Harris. Pride of our village,” families from the Thulasendrapuram village wrote in colourful powder.

“Kamala Harris is the daughter of our village,” councillor Aulmozhi Sudhakar told The Associated Press.

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Harris has often paid tribute to her late mother Shyamala Gopalan, who left her home country of India when she was just 19 to pursue graduate studies at the University of California Berkeley. At the time, only a handful of Indian women had the opportunity to follow an academic path.

After separating from Harris’ father – the economist Donald Harris who hails from Jamaica – Shyamala worked as a single mother raising Harris and her sister Maya.

“Don’t let people tell you who you are,” Harris’ mother would say. “You tell them who you are.”

Harris developed the same determination to break new ground in her legal and political career.

On Twitter, Indians and Indian-Americans viewed her victory as a shining moment for their people. Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated her and expressed hopes for “stronger” India-US ties.

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

In Tamil, the word “chittis” means aunts. The reference calls to mind Harris’ support base – comprised predominantly of women of colour – when she began her campaign. 

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Regardless of one’s political persuasion, Harris’ victory changes in part the conversation around race, ethnicity and gender and how these are represented in the political mainstream.

“Thinking about Shyamala and all the Indian moms out there feeling the emotions my mom is feeling right now; to vote for, and elect, someone who was raised around the same food, the same discipline, the same culture,” one Twitter user shared.

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