The moment US Senator Kamala Harris was chosen as the vice-presidential candidate for Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden, she has been making waves in the news, globally and in India too, on account of her half Indian heritage, which has made her an instant hit with the Asian as well as Asian American community. Harris is the first person of Indian descent (her mother, Shyamala Gopalan was born in Chennai before she moved to the USA to pursue a doctoral degree at the University of California Berkeley) and the first Black woman in the history of America to hold a major-party national ticket in a US presidential election. And ever since news of Harris’ Chennai connect came to light, Indians all over have been tweeting and posting about the vice-presidential candidate’s childhood trips to India, her maternal roots in Chennai’s Besant Nagar and photos of Harris sporting the traditional saree all over the Internet.
Former Indian foreign secretary, Nirupama Menon Rao, took to Twitter and tweeted a photo of Harris along with her grandparents and sister Maya sporting traditional Indian attire, the post was captioned, “The Harris sisters, Kamala Devi and Maya Lakshmi, on a visit to her grandparents’ home in Besant Nagar, Chennai. #KamalaHarris, back row at left,in an undated family photo. Next to her, from left, her grandmother Rajam, grandfather P.V. Gopalan and sister, Maya Harris.”
Harris, whose father Donald Harris is of Jamaican descent, hasn’t been very vocal about her family’s Indian heritage, but has spoken of her conversations with her maternal grandfather which helped shape her political views. According to the LA times, California’s junior U.S. senator said in a recent interview, “My grandfather was really one of my favourite people in my world.” However, Indians on social media would have none of this and have now painted the senator as a complete ‘Indian’. From her maternal roots, to her name, Kamala which literally translates to Lotus, and also happens to be the national flower of India.
Twitter user, Priya Ravichandran, wrote about the nation’s excitement with Harris’ Indian identity in a series of tweets, one of which read, “On the one hand I am ecstatic about the Biden Harris ticket. On the other hand everytime I say her name out loud, another Harris is Indian just like us lands in my WhatsApp.”
While writer Cauvery Madhavan’s tweet about everyone scrambling to find their connect to Kamala was very apt and hilarious, “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 viral 2019 video of Harris making masala dosa along with Indian-origin comedian, producer and actor Mindy Kaling has now been doing the rounds of WhatsApp and social media in India. In the video, the two women bond over their South Indian roots, and Harris opens up about her maternal family who were big advocates of vegetarianism. In the video she says, “So, when we were growing up and we would go to India…and my grandfather was a little mischievous…my grandmother, of course, was strictly ‘no, nothing’. If it had a mother, it was not getting eaten. And if my grandmother would go out of town, my grandfather would then…get very mischievous and he would say, ‘Okay, let us have French toast’.”