Kamala Harris, ‘a daughter of our village’

A woman walks past a picture of Kamala Harris in Thulasendrapuram

The maternal village of Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris in India was bustling with activity on Sunday morning.

Thulasendrapuram is where Harris’s maternal grandfather was born. The village in Tamil Nadu state – population around 8,000, mainly farm labourers and landlords – has become a hotspot of celebration.

Villagers are bursting crackers, distributing sweets and offering prayers of thanks at a temple after learning about the victory of Harris and Joe Biden.

Women draw rangolis (colourful designs on the floor) in front of their homes. Young and old carry posters of Harris with pride and joy in their eyes. When bells rang in the temple for prayers, groups of women came with sweets on big plates and made offerings to the family deity of Harris’s ancestors.

Over 120 villagers, even local politicians, cutting across party lines, gathered in the temple and took part in the event. They hope Harris will visit their village after she takes the new job. Some elderly women recall that Harris’s grandfather donated funds for the renovation of the temple.

Arul Mozhi Sudhakar, councillor for Thulasendrapuram, compares the participation of women in elections in India and America.

“India had women leaders like former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, and former Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalithaa. But now a woman from Indian origin has created history in America. I am happy,” she says.

“Though I am a woman politician in this tiny Indian village, I could understand the difficult terrain women had to sail over to anchor in politics.

“A new history for America was written by a woman whom we consider as daughter of our village.’”

While I write this, sitting in a photostat shop in the village, I learn that more than 10 new large posters of Harris have been ordered by local people to be placed in important corners of the village.

A man takes a photo of a Kamala Harris poster in her ancestral village