A tiny, lush-green Indian village surrounded by rice paddy fields was beaming with joy Wednesday hours before its descendant, Kamala Harris, takes her oath of office and becomes the U.S. vice president. Harris is set to make history as the first woman, the first woman of color, and first person of South Asian descent to hold the vice presidency.
In her maternal grandfather’s hometown of Thulasendrapuram, about 350 kilometers (215 miles) from the southern coastal city of Chennai, people were jubilant and gearing up for celebrations.
“We are feeling very proud that an Indian is being elected as the vice president of America,” said Anukampa Madhavasimhan, a teacher.
Harris’ grandfather moved to Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu state, decades ago. Harris’ late mother was also born in India, before moving to the U.S. to study at the University of California. She married a Jamaican man, and they named their daughter Kamala, a Sanskrit word for “lotus flower.”
Ahead of the inauguration, special prayers for her success were held at the town temple during which the idol of Hindu deity Ayyanar, a form of Lord Shiva, was washed with milk and decked with flowers by the priest.
Ahead of the U.S. elections in November, villagers in Thulasendrapuram also pulled together a ceremony at the temple to wish Harris good luck. After her win, they set off firecrackers and distributed sweets and flowers as a religious offering.
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 reelection or retire.
“For the next four years, if she supports India, she will be the president,” said G Manikandan, who has followed Harris politically and whose shop proudly displays a wall calendar with pictures of Biden and Harris.
On Tuesday, an organization that promotes vegetarianism sent food packets for the village children as gifts to celebrate Harris’ success.