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Kamala Harris’ mother instilled love for ‘good idli’

Cover photo: Kamala Harris and actress Mindy Kaling making dosas.

Washington, Aug 16 (IANS) Indian-American Kamala Harris, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s running mate for the November 3 election, said her mother, who was originally from Chennai, “always wanted to instill in a love of good idli”.

She made the remarks in a video message on Friday to mark India’s 74th Independence Day.

“To the people of India and to Indian-Americans all across the US, I want to wish you a happy Indian Independence Day,” she said as the video started.

“On August 15, 1947, men and women all across India rejoiced the declaration of independence of the country of India. (And) Today on August 15, 2020, I stand before you as the first candidate of Vice President of the US of South Asian descent.”

In the video, Harris also mentions her mother Shyamala Gopalan, a cancer researcher from India, and father Donald Harris, an African Jamaican economics professor.

“When my mother Shyamala stepped off the plane in California when she was 19 years old, she didn’t have much belongings, but she carried with her lessons from back home, including ones she learned from her parents.

“They taught her when you see injustice in the world, you have an obligation to do something about it,” Harris said.

The California Democrat went on to say that this inspired her mother “to scream and shout in the streets of Oakland at the heights of the Civil Rights movement”, adding that it was during these protests when her parents had met for the first time.

Recalling her memories with her mother, Harris said: “Growing up, my mother would take my sister Maya and me back to what was then called Madras because she wanted us to understand where she had come from and where we had ancestry.

“And, of course, she always wanted to instil in us, a love of good idli.”

She also spoke about the “long walks” she took with her grand-father P.V. Gopalan, an Indian freedom-fighter, who became a civil servant and was assigned by the Indian government to help Zambia deal with its refugee problem in the late 1960s.

“In Madras, i would go for long walks with my grandfather… and he would tell me stories of the heroes who were responsible for the birth of the world’s biggest democracy.”

Besides the video, Harris also took to Twitter to extend her greetings.

“Happy Indian Independence Day! Reflecting on the past 74 years, it’s remarkable how much progress our people have made in the fight for justice. I hope you’ll join me today in celebrating and then commit to building an even better future,” she tweeted on Saturday.

On August 11, Biden picked Harris to be his running mate for the November 3 election, in a historic move that marked a breakthrough for Indian-Americans in US politics.


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Kamala Devi Harris has deftly melded her dominant African American identity with that of her Indian background as a Tamil to create the evergreen American classic of the immigrant dream. Born in the US to immigrants, cancer researcher Shyamala Gopalan from India and economics professor Donald Harris from Jamaica, Harris has leaped in a generation to running for a position that could put her a heartbeat away from the presidency. She wrote in her memoir, “The Truths We Hold,” that she was raised in “a place where people believed in the most basic tenet of the American Dream: that if you worked hard and do right by the world, your kids will be better of than you were.” On Tuesday Joe Biden, who is to be the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate, announced that she would be on his ticket at the nominee for vice president. Her multiracial background – which includes a layer of a White Jewish husband, Douglas Emhoff, and two step children – gives her a degree of identity fluidity to navigate American society riven by race and ethnicity. After her parents divorced when she was only seven, Harris was brought up by her mother, whom she has described as “tough and fierce and protective” yet “generous and loyal and funny,” and credits her for her success. In her memoir, “The Truths We Hold,” Harris wrote that the lesson “it was service to others that gave life purpose and meaning” that she inherited from her mother came from her grandmother Rajam, who had not completed high school but was a fiery protector of victims of domestic abuse. Moving from New Delhi to Berkeley for her PhD in the tumultuous era of the 1960s civil rights movements, Shyamala Gopalan joined the protests “with a sense of justice imprinted on her soul,” Harris wrote. Her relationship with fellow-activist Donald Harris grew under the clamor of the protests and Kamala Harris recalls, “My parents often brought me in a stroller with them to civil rights marches.” Full report on our website. Link in bio. #kamalaharris #bidenharris2020 #kamaladeviharris

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