Mon | Apr 12, 2021

Village cheers for Harris during swearing-in as US VP

Published:Thursday | January 21, 2021 | 12:16 AM
A child holds a tray of chocolates as others hold portraits of US Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris, after participating in special prayers ahead of her inauguration at a Hindu temple in Thulasendrapuram, the hometown of Harris’ maternal grandfather, ye
A child holds a tray of chocolates as others hold portraits of US Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris, after participating in special prayers ahead of her inauguration at a Hindu temple in Thulasendrapuram, the hometown of Harris’ maternal grandfather, yesterday.

THULASENDRAPURAM (AP):

Residents of a tiny Indian village surrounded by rice paddies flocked to a Hindu temple, setting off firecrackers and praying and as they watched Kamala Harris, who has strong roots to the village, take her oath of office and become the US vice-president on Wednesday.

Groups of women in bright saris and men wearing white dhoti pants watched the inauguration live as reporters broadcast the villagers’ celebrations to millions of Indians. The villagers chanted “Long live Kamala Harris” while holding portraits of her, and blasted off fireworks the moment she took the oath.

Earlier, the villages adorned their temple with flowers, offering special prayers for Harris’ success. Her maternal grandfather was born in the village of Thulasendrapuram, about 350 kilometres (215 miles) from the southern coastal city of Chennai.

“We are feeling very proud that an Indian is being elected as the vice-president of America,” said teacher Anukampa Madhavasimhan.

At the prayer ceremony in Thulasendrapuram, the idol of Hindu deity Ayyanar, a form of Lord Shiva, was washed with milk and decked with flowers by a priest. Then the village reverberated with the sound of firecrackers as people held up posters of Harris and clapped their hands.

Harris made history on Wednesday as the first Black, South Asian and female US vice-president, and what made her special for the village is her Indian heritage.

Harris’ grandfather was born more than 100 years ago. Many decades later, he moved to Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu state. Harris’ late mother was also born in India, before moving to the US to study at the University of California. She married a Jamaican man, and they named their daughter Kamala, a Sanskrit word for ‘lotus flower’.

In several speeches, Harris has often spoken about her roots and how she was guided by the values of her India-born grandfather and mother.

So when Joe Biden and Harris triumphed in the US election last November, Thulasendrapuram became the centre of attention in the entire India. Local politicians flocked to the village and young children carrying placards with photos of Harris ran along the dusty roads.