Indian village cheers for Kamala Harris before US inauguration

Harris is set to make history as the first woman, first woman of colour and first person of South Asian descent to hold the US vice presidency.

A calendar with photos of Biden and Harris hangs in a shop in Thulasendrapuram village in Tamil Nadu state [P Ravikumar/Reuters]

A tiny, lush Indian village surrounded by rice paddy fields is beaming with joy, hours before its descendant, Kamala Harris, takes her oath of office and becomes the vice president of the United States.

Harris is set to make history as the first woman, first Black American and first person of South Asian descent to hold the vice presidency.

In her maternal grandfather’s village of Thulasendrapuram, about 320km (200 miles) south of Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu state in southern India, people were jubilant as they set off firecrackers and distributed food.

“We are feeling very proud that an Indian is being elected as the vice president of America,” said Anukampa Madhavasimhan, 52, a teacher.

Calendars featuring the faces of Biden and Harris have been distributed throughout the village by a co-operative.

Indian villagers gather outside a local eatery next to a banner featuring Harris in Thulasendrapuram, village [Aijaz Rahi/AP]

Harris’ grandfather moved to Chennai decades ago. Her 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.

Harris visited Thulasendrapuram when she was five and has recalled walks with her grandfather on the beach at Chennai.

“A local politician conducted a special prayer and villagers have been distributing sweets and letting off crackers since [Wednesday] morning,” said village shopkeeper G Manikandan, 40.

The scenes were in contrast to the sombre mood in Washington – locked down due to security concerns and the threat of the novel coronavirus – where Biden and Harris are due to be sworn in later on Wednesday.

Ahead of the US elections in November, villagers in Thulasendrapuram had pulled together a ceremony at the main Hindu temple to wish Harris good luck.

After her win, they set off firecrackers and distributed sweets and flowers as a religious offering.

An Indian villager stands in front of a banner displaying photographs of Harris in Thulasendrapuram [Aijaz Rahi/AP]

Posters of Harris from the November celebrations still adorn walls in the village and many hope she ascends to the presidency in 2024.

President-elect Joe Biden has skirted questions about whether he will seek re-election or retire.

“For the next four years, if she supports India, she will be the president,” said Manikandan, who has followed her politically and whose shop proudly displays a wall calendar with pictures of Biden and Harris.

Ahead of the inauguration, special prayers for her success are expected to be held at the local temple during which the idol of Hindu deity Ayyanar, one of the forms of Hindu god Lord Shiva, will be washed with milk and decked with flowers by the priest.

“I wish her well, success and I wish after four years she [Kamala Harris] becomes the president of the US, that is my wish, sincere wish,” said Sheshadri Venkatraman, the temple administrator.

On Tuesday, an organisation that promotes vegetarianism sent food packets for the village children as gifts to celebrate Harris’ success. Separately, artist Sudarsan Pattnaik has created a sand sculpture featuring Biden and Harris.

Source: News Agencies