Waking up to the news that Kamala Harris had won the race to be the next US vice president, overjoyed people in her Indian grandfather’s home town set off firecrackers, offered prayers and carried placards.
Groups gathered at street corners of the tiny village of Thulasendrapuram, population 350, reading newspapers and chatting about the Democrats’ victory in the United States presidential election before moving to the Hindu temple.
A woman wrote in coloured powder outside her home: “Congratulations Kamala Harris. Pride of our village. Vanakkam (Greetings) America.”
Most of them had gone to sleep by the time Biden surpassed the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the presidency, making Harris the first woman and the first person of South Asian descent to be elected vice president.
“For two or three days we kept our fingers crossed while the result was delayed,” said resident Kalidas Vamdayar.
“Now it’s a joyful moment for us. We are enjoying it. We will celebrate with firecrackers, distributing Indian sweets to people and praying in the temple. We will request her to come here. She would have heard our voice and she may come.”
Aulmozhi Sudhakar, a village councillor, said: “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 US.”
Women in the village, located 350 kilometres (215 miles) from the southern coastal city of Chennai, used bright colours to write “We Wish Kamala Harris Wins” on the ground, alongside a thumbs-up sign.
The lush green village is the hometown of Harris’s maternal grandfather, who moved to Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu state, decades ago.
Inside the temple where people have been holding special prayers, Harris’s name is sculpted into a stone that lists public donations made to the temple in 2014, along with that of her grandfather who gave money decades ago.
Harris’s late mother was also born in India, before moving to the US at the age of 19 to study at the University of California. She married a Jamaican, and they named their daughter Kamala, Sanskrit for “lotus flower”.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a tweet described Harris’s success as path-breaking, and a matter of immense pride not just for her relatives but also for all Indian Americans. “I am confident that the vibrant India-US ties will get even stronger with your support and leadership.”
There has been both excitement – and some concern – over Biden’s choice of Harris as his running mate.
Modi had invested in President Donald Trump, who visited India in February. Modi’s many Hindu nationalist supporters also were upset with Harris when she expressed concern about the divided Himalayan region of Kashmir, whose statehood India’s government revoked in August last year.
Harris stood by Pramila Jayapal, another US congresswoman of Indian origin when India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar refused to attend a meeting in the United States over her participation last year. Jayapal had earlier moved a resolution on the Kashmir issue critical of India in the House of Representatives.
Rights groups accuse India of human rights violations in Indian-administered Kashmir. India has stationed more than half a million soldiers in Indian-administered Kashmir to quell an armed rebellion that erupted in 1989. Most Kashmiris want independence from India or a merger with neighbouring Pakistan, whose claims to the picturesque Himalayan region dates back to 1947.