Indian origin Senator Kamala Harris
File photo of US Senator Kamala Harris | Sergio Flores | Bloomberg
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Hong Kong/Bangalore: When Democratic Party presidential nominee Joe Biden picked Kamala Harris to be his running mate, it sparked a frenzy on the other side of the globe to track down her connections to Chennai, the southern Indian city where her mother was born.

On Twitter and Facebook, a flurry of users chronicled every minute link including her grandparents’ home in the Besant Nagar neighborhood, from where her mother Shyamala Gopalan set off as a teenager to pursue a doctoral degree at the University of California Berkeley. Undated photos surfaced of Kamala and younger sibling Maya in saris, smilingly posing with their grandparents during a visit. Many saw Harris a step away from the White House, and the de facto Democratic Party front-runner in four or eight years.

Writer Cauvery Madhavan captured the hysteria in a tweet: “If you’re wondering what that loud windy up sound is – it’s all of Chennai cranking the #SixDegreesOfSeparation machine!! Any moment now my mother is going to triumphantly reveal that her pharmacist’s father was @KamalaHarris’s grandma’s preferred tailor.” Another Twitter user, Priya Ravichandran, jested, “I was asked to Google and find which relative lives in besant nagar. People are this close to renting party bus and do drive by near their house and celebrate kamala.”

Senator Harris is the first person of Indian descent and the first Black woman on a major ticket in a U.S. presidential election. Indian media outlets vied with American newspapers like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal to analyze the geopolitical impact of her rise and what a Biden-Harris win could mean for U.S.-India relations. Local outlets and TV crews raced to hunt down an assortment of Harris’s aunts and even a great-uncle who detailed her visits to the sprawling metropolis and her strolls on its humid beaches discussing democracy and equality with her grandfather, a retired government official.

A prominent local newspaper, The Hindu BusinessLine, carried the headline: “Kamala Devi Harris and the destiny-changing coconuts from Chennai.” The story described Harris’s aunt praying for her victory in the California Senate elections nine years ago by breaking 108 coconuts, a popular religious ritual, at the local temple. The paper quoted Harris phoning her aunt to say, “Chithi (aunt), please pray for me and break coconuts at the temple.”

Twitter users highlighted her Indianness beginning with the name Kamala, which means lotus in several Indian languages. CNN’s local partner tweeted that “Kamala Harris loves idlis. And, sambhar” — fluffy rice cakes and spicy lentil stew often eaten for breakfast in India.

The fuss over Harris’s political elevation this week far outstripped the excitement over the rise of other Chennai-connected personalities such as actor Mindy Kaling and Alphabet Inc. Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai.

While hundreds of Twitter users in India posted laudatory messages, some rued that Harris’s nomination would inflate the already lofty expectations of Indian parents for their kids. Indian lawmaker and prominent opposition Congress Party member Shashi Tharoor tweeted, “‘Beta (son) what are you doing these days? Oh, just a Harvard Professor? Not even Mayor yet?’”

Harris, whose father is of Jamaican ancestry, has downplayed her family’s India ties although she has spoken of how the deep conversations with her grandfather during India visits helped shaped her political views. But social media users were quick to appropriate her as completely Indian. A video from last year in which she’s seen with Mindy Kaling cooking a masala dosa, a south Indian savory crepe filled with spicy potatoes, is circulating wildly on WhatsApp groups in India.-Bloomberg


Also read: Joe Biden & Kamala Harris make socially distanced debut as Democratic challengers to Trump


 

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8 Comments Share Your Views

8 COMMENTS

  1. 1) Not in favour of Indian sovereignty. A hypocrite that did not dare comment against China reg. Tibet, Hong Kong and China’s Kashmir incursion. Then again, which person/news publication has the temerity to do so? Even some tech websites are blocking any negative content against China. Tiktok too removes content favourably talking about non-Chinese political leaders and approves unfavourable comments only. Its the opposite for Chinese leaders. Tiktok also removed pro Hong Kong and Tiananmen Square incident related videos last year. No major news is talking about this today due to Trumpophobia/fear of China.
    2) She has a track record of bribery with suppressed cases. Some controversy as early as last year too. They’ll only completely disappear from record thanks to fraud news publications not covering the same due to convenience. I don’t think she’s a good choice. Tulsi Gabbard would’ve been better. Even the disappointing Hillary would’ve been better.
    3) Biden’s/Harris’ climate change consultants are the same that Obama used when in power. They strongly advocate burning fossil fuels and coal etc., not green energy. Even today. No better than Trump’s manifesto.
    4) Honestly, Trump, though idiotic, is a far more straight-forward person and not some sly fox who engages in political intrigue. Whatever he does, he does openly. This is actually an advantage as compared to a past President who conveniently found an important terrorist right before his elections (post the financial crisis fiasco and bad poll ratings) and reversed his near loss to a certain victory. And got an Oscar for whatever reason.

  2. Shashi Tharoor’s tweet speaks volumes (of Indian politics)! One should question why the mother does not put the same question to her child in Indian context?

  3. SUPRIYA BATRA and SARITHA RAI HAVE TOGETHER PICKED UP A FEW PARAS FROM WRITE UPS IN AMERICAN MAGAZINES AND REHASHED A STORY ON KAMALA HARRIS., WHO IS VERY WELL KNOWN FOR HER ANTI INDIAN STAND. ALTHOUGH I DOUBT IF SHE WOULD BE ELECTED AS VP, IF SHE DOES GET ELECTED IT WOULD BE BAD FOR INDIA. SUCH PERSONS WHOSE KNOWLEDGE ABOUT WORLD POLITICS IS DISMAL, TO SAY THE LEAST, WOULD BE A DISASTER EVEN FOR THE USA. GOD HELP THE AMERICANS.

    • The world is facing over population due to virtue signallers being afraid of asking the obvious question – why do people who cannot afford a square meal have a dozen kids?

      Chaos is inevitable. What manner it shall appear, is the unknown quantity.

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