After Kamala Harris, Another Tamil Nadu Village Celebrates, This Time for US Epidemiologist Celine Gounder
Celine Gounder. (Image courtesy: Website of Celine Gounder)
The quaint little village of Perumapalayam near here is excited about Indian American, Dr Celine Gounder making it to the US president elect Joe Biden's COVID-19 advisory board since she has her roots in it and for her continuing support to its residents. Celine's father Raj Natarajan Gounder was a native of the village near Perumapalayam near Modakurichi in this western district in Tamil Nadu and had migrated to the US in the 1960s.
Her relatives and people of Perumapalayam are ecstatic that a 'daughter of the son of soil' has made them proud by her sheer hard work. The announcement of Celine being picked to the advisory board came days after Thulasendrapuram in Tiruvarur district celebrated the victory of Kamala Harris, who is set to be the first woman vice-president of the United States.
Harris's mother Shyamala Gopalan's family hailed from Thulasenthirapuram and Painganadu in the District. Celine's close relative S Thangavel, a retired government official, recalled the journey of Raj Gounder from the little known place to the USA, where his daughter has been recognised for her work in public health.
Raj Gounder went to the US in 1968 after completing his postgraduation at the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru and graduation at St Joseph College, Tiruchirappalli. Thangavel said Celine, now 43-year old, had always maintained links with the village and supported the state-run Modakurichi Boys Higher Secondary School students where her father studied and founded the Raj Gounder Foundation to help people.
She visited Perumapalayam whenever she could and helped upgrading infrastructure at the school as well and provided scholarship to students to pursue their higher education. Also, she has been lending a helping hand to disabled children of the village.
"Raj Gounder worked for Boeing in the US," Thangavel said adding the entire village and the larger family was happy about Celine's achievement and for her support. Swarnambigai, a resident of the village and a retired teacher, was all praise for Celine not only for remembering her roots but also for trying and doing whatever she could to improve the lot of students.
According to the local people, Raj Gounder was the fourth son of Tirumalai Gounder and Chinnammal and he married Nicole who emigrated to the US in 1972 from France. Celin is the eldest of the three daughters of the Raj, Nicole couple. "We are eagerly awaiting her visit," the local people said and conveyed their warm wishes to her on her appointment.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami and DMK President M K Stalin lauded Celine for being named to the COVID-19 Advisory Board of US President-elect Biden, recalling her Tamil ancestry. "I'm extremely happy that @celinegounder & @vivek_murthy have been appointed in the National Pandemic Taskforce of US to combat #COVID19," Palaniswami tweeted.
"Both of them have made India proud and I'm very glad to learn that Dr Celine Gounder has a Tamil heritage. My best wishes to both of them," he said. Stalin, the leader of the opposition in the state assembly, greeted Gounder, saying he felt glad about her appointment to the taskforce.
"Happy to hear about the appointment of a woman of Tamil origin to this crucial task force," he said in a Facebook post. On her twitter handle, Celine said on Tuesday,"My people in Tamil Nadu, India are very proud," (about her appointment).
Also, she said: "Americans still today have difficulty pronouncing foreign-sounding names (e.g. Vice President-elect @KamalaHarris): "My father changed his name to Gounder in the early 1970s before I was born. My name is my name. It's part of my history and identity, even if some of that history is painful. I didn't change my name when I got married. I'm not changing it now," she said. She is a clinical assistant professor of medicine and infectious diseases at New York Universitys Grossman School of Medicine, a practising HIV/infectious diseases specialist.