Banners and prayers for Kamala Harris in her ancestral Indian village

Published October 27, 2020
A man drives past a banner of US Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris at the entrance to the village of Thulasendrapuram, where Harris' maternal grandfather was born and grew up, in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, India, on October 25. — Reuters
A man drives past a banner of US Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris at the entrance to the village of Thulasendrapuram, where Harris' maternal grandfather was born and grew up, in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, India, on October 25. — Reuters

A big banner of US vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris welcomes visitors to Thulasendrapuram, a lush, green south Indian village that is praying for her Democratic Party’s victory in the November 3 presidential election.

The village, located about 320 km south of the city of Chennai, is where Harris’s maternal grandfather was born more than a century ago.

Its residents beam with pride at what the first US senator of South Asian descent has already achieved, and many are rooting for an election result that will make her the second-most powerful person in the world’s richest country.

“From Thulasendrapuram to America” declares one of the nearly dozen banners from where Harris smiles out in the village.

“We, the people of Thulasendrapuram, wish for the electoral success of American vice president nominee Kamala Harris, whose ancestors were a native of Thulasendrapuram.”

Harris’s grandfather P.V. Gopalan and his family migrated to Chennai nearly 90 years ago, where he retired as a high-ranking government official.

Harris, who was born to an Indian mother and a Jamaican father who both immigrated to the United States to study, visited Thulasendrapuram when she was just five and has repeatedly recalled her formative walks with her grandfather on the beaches of Chennai.

Gopalan’s childhood home in Thulasendrapuram does not exist anymore, villagers say, and cows and goats were seen grazing on empty plots of land where the house he grew up in once stood.

The banners, with messages written in Tamil, were put up on the directions of M. Gurunathan, the head of Thulasendrapuram’s village committee that oversees its more than 200 mostly farming families.

One banner at the village bus stop has Harris smiling with the White House in the background.

“We are really hoping she wins,” said Gurunathan, who is planning to hold a special prayer at the local temple on election day. “The village has received global fame because of her. She is our pride.”

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