New Delhi, November 08, 2020: Sunday morning saw the streets of Thulasendrapuram Painganadu celebrating, with firecrackers and beautiful ‘happy’ rangolis replacing ‘good luck’ kolams. The villagers from Tamil Nadu’s Tiruvarur district were ecstatic to wake up to the news of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris winning.
Thulasendhirapuram is the village where Harris’ maternal grandfather PV Gopalan hailed from. Even when she was nominated as the Democratic nominee, the villagers had given a rousing reception.
People began setting off firecrackers, carrying placards with her photograph and read out the news headlines claiming her victory before heading to the temple to offer prayers.
Sudhakar, the head of the village who has been organising prayers since Harris was nominated, had a beautiful rangoli drawn outside his home which read, “Congratulations Kamala Harris. Pride of our village. Vanakkam (Greetings) America.”
Tamil Nadu Food Minister R Kamraj, alongwith several locals, visited the Dharma Sastha temple for a prayer.
“Kamala Harris is the daughter of our village. From children to senior citizens, each one of us is awaiting the day she would take oath as the vice president of the United States.”
Arulmozhi Sudhakar, Councillor
Prayers were offered in the local temple on election day, when locals recalled how proud they were of her roots.
“Her victory is a huge matter of pride for Thiruvarur, Tamil Nadu, India and the world. We have been doing paal abhishekam, special poojas to ensure her win,” said the priest at Harris’ ancestral temple.
A lot of festivities have been planned in the village, as posters of Harris as the ‘pride of Thulasendrapuram’ can be found pinned all over the village.
The villagers appealed to Harris to visit Thiruvarur someday.
Tamil Nadu:State Min R Kamaraj offers prayers at a temple in Thulasendrapuram,native village of US Vice President-elect Kamala Harris,for her victory in US polls.
“A woman hailing from this small village now holds one of highest positions in US. It’s a proud moment,”says Kamaraj
PV Gopalan: A Guiding Light for Kamala
Born in 1911 in a village in Tamil Nadu’s Thiruvarur district, PV Gopalan began his career in the Indian Civil Services in 1930s, and traveled across the country serving as Under Secretary to Government of India in the Ministry of Transport (Roads Wing), Joint Secretary to Government of India in the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Rehabilitation.
Harris had once referred to him as ‘one of my favourite people in my world.’
In her memoir, The Truths We Hold, Kamala spoke of how Gopalan was a diligent civil servant. After Zambia attained independence in 1964, Gopalan was deputed to the federal Government of Zambia as Director of Relief Measures and Refugees in Lusaka.
In a 2009 interview with journalist Aziz Haniffa, she talked about how, “Some of my fondest memories from childhood were walking along the beach with him after he retired and lived in Besant Nagar, in what was then called Madras. He would take walks every morning along the beach with his buddies who were all retired government officials and they would talk about politics, about how corruption must be fought and about justice.”
“They would laugh and voice opinions and argue, and those conversations, even more than their actions, had such a strong influence on me in terms in terms of learning to be responsible, to be honest, and to have integrity,” she added, reported News 18.
Gopalan may have left the village in the 1930s, along with his family, but the villagers here sure believe they are the connect between the US and India – via the first woman of color to be elected as vice president of the United States.