Kamala Harris gives her ancestral village in India a cause for joy

Kamala Harris gives her ancestral village in India a cause for joy

NEW DELHI – From the moment the sun rose in the small village of Thulasindrapuram in southern India, people started stringing fireworks across the road. They poured into the temple. They took colored powder and wrote copious letters in happy capital letters in front of their homes, like this:

“Congratulations to Kamala Harris, the pride of our village.”

If there’s one place in India enjoying the victory of Joseph R Biden Jr. and Mrs. Harris, his vice president in the US presidential election, it is Thulasindrapuram, the small village where Mrs. Harris’ Indian grandfather was born more than 100 years ago. Her name was written on a tablet next to the temple. People there love and sympathize with her strongly.

For four days, the 500 or so residents of Thulasindrapuram waited anxiously. They prayed at the temple, wrapped Hindu idols in rose petals and sweet-smelling threads of jasmine, and took turns looking for good news and checking their cell phones for the latest updates.

On Sunday, a wave of joy exploded.

“I made Kamala very proud of this village,” said Rinjanathan, a farmer, who rushed to the village’s main temple. “She is an amazing lady and an inspiration. She belongs to this land.”

Her mother, Shyamala Gopalan, who came to America alone in the late 1950s and worked as a breast cancer researcher before dying of cancer in 2009, remains one of the most talked about by Mrs. Harris.

In her victory speech in Delaware on Saturday, Mrs. Harris said her mother was “the woman most responsible for my being here today.”

“When you came here from India at the age of nineteen, you might not have fully imagined this moment,” Ms. Harris said. “But she was a deep believer in America where a moment like this is possible.”

Indians were watching this election closely, not because of Mrs. Harris’s legacy but because of what it might herald for India-US relations. In the past few months, the two countries, the largest democracies in the world, have come close.

Part of the reason is China. Since the outbreak of Chinese forces across the disputed Indo-Chinese border in June, resulting in clashes that killed more than 20 Indian soldiers, the United States and India have strengthened their military relationship, shared more intelligence, and planned more coordinated exercises, motivated by the desire to contain China.

How will things change under the Biden Harris administration is the big question that Indians are asking now. The incoming administration is definitely more familiar with India. Mrs. Harris spent much time in India as a young woman visiting family and developing a fondness for Indian food and culture.

Mr. Biden, even before Vice President Barack Obama became a champion of India in the Senate, lobbied hard for a nuclear deal between the two countries. Mr. Biden also promised to allow more visas for skilled immigrant workersWhich President Trump has cut dramatically, and Indian workers can benefit greatly from that.

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But foreign policy experts expect the Biden Harris team to be tougher on India. They say that the policies of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi have made life more difficult for Muslims in the country, and while the Trump administration has been silent on the changes in Kashmir and the passage of a blatantly anti-Muslim new citizenship law. Mrs. Harris and Biden are likely to be more critical.

Ms Harris has already indicated that she is concerned about the way India has tightened its control over Kashmir, a Muslim-majority region disputed between India and Pakistan. People who know her well expect her to talk more.

Her uncle c. Balachandran by phone from his home in New Delhi Sunday morning, “Kamala is a very strong personality who feels strongly about certain issues like human rights and civil rights.” “You might say things if you feel India is against human rights.”

Most analysts believe that human rights in general will likely receive more attention under the Biden administration, which could make Moody nervous.

Shortly after midnight, Mr. Moody tweeted his congratulations to Mr. Biden and Mrs. Harris. To Mrs. Harris, he wrote: “Your success is groundbreaking, and a matter of enormous pride not only for your animal, but also for all American Indians.” (Chittis is the Hindi term for aunts.)

A few of Mrs. Harris’s relatives still live in India, including her aunt who has been in her corner for years. She once arranged 108 coconuts to be smashed at a Hindu temple to bring good luck to Mrs. Harris in a race for the California attorney general. (Mrs. Harris won that election, by minimal margins.)

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But Mrs. Harris’s grandfather left the ancestral village of Thulasendrapuram, an eight-hour drive from Chennai, more than 80 years ago. She had no relatives there. However, this does not prevent the village from making big plans.

Some people are hoping that the government will now build a college there, a wish the village had been hoping for for years. Others argue that Mrs. Harris’ rise may bring a better way. Or at least some extra donation for the temple.

On Sunday, groups of women clad in colorful temple sarees swarmed with buckets of fresh sweets.

The smell of gunpowder hung in the air from all the firecrackers.

A light rain fell.

“From the moment I announced that she was a candidate, we had been praying,” said Arol Moshi Sudhakar, a member of the village council. “God was listening to our prayers.”

Geoffrey Gitelman reported from New Delhi and Prakash Illumalai from Thulasindrapuram, India. Sahasini Raj contributed reporting from Gangnam, India.

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