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As Kamala Harris Enters White House Race, Family Back in Chennai Takes Trip Down Memory Lane

Even though Kamala Harris is the daughter of immigrants — her father is from Jamaica — and grew up in the 1960s in the progressive hotbed of Oakland in California, she shares a deep Indian connect owing to her Tamil mother, Shyamala Gopalan.

Poornima Murali | CNN-News18

Updated:February 8, 2019, 9:25 AM IST
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As Kamala Harris Enters White House Race, Family Back in Chennai Takes Trip Down Memory Lane
File photo of Kamala Harris (File photo: Reuters).

Chennai: As Kamala Harris gears up to enter the competitive field of 2020 Democratic presidential candidates as a frontrunner, much has been spoken about her.

After two terms as district attorney of San Francisco (2004-2011), she was twice elected as attorney general of California (2011-2017), becoming the first woman and the first black person to serve as chief law enforcement officer of that populous state. Then in January 2017, she took the oath of office as California's junior US senator, making her the first woman of South Asian descent to hold the post.

Even though she is the daughter of immigrants — her father is from Jamaica — and grew up in the 1960s in the progressive hotbed of Oakland in California, Harris shares a deep Indian connect owing to her Tamil mother, Shyamala Gopalan.

In fact, Harris’ maternal grandfather PV Gopalan, was an Indian diplomat and her aunt, Sarala Gopalan, is a resident of Chennai. She shared a close relationship with her grandparents and made frequent visits to their residence in Besant Nagar as a child.

News18 reached out to Sarala, who in a conversation, said that she couldn’t have been prouder of Kamala’s achievements and dedication.

“We always expected great things out of her. Even as a child, Kamala was sincere. I have seen her grow over the years – right from the time she became an Attorney General and then a Senator. She has always been on the right path,” the aunt said.

Sarala, along with her family attended Kamala’s swearing-in ceremony as a Senator in 2017. For her, the US leader hasn’t changed a bit “even when she’s been busy for nine years.”

“There is an obvious time difference and so we don’t always get to talk. But she makes it a point to respond as and when possible. We stay in touch and keep messaging,” Sarala said, adding that Harris is more regularly in touch with her younger sister who lives in Canada.

“The last time she got elected, my younger sister was present with her during the counting and pre-election campaign. So the family always gives her support whenever she needs it,” she said.

Talking about Kamala’s achievements, Sarala said that she has been an achiever since she was a five-year-old. “What’s even more important is that she was endearing and kind even as a child and has managed to stay the same,” she said.

Even while Sarala is not a frequent traveler and has been present with Kamala only for her biggest achievements, she said that the family is closely-knit and always there for each other. “I go to Canada once a year at least. Last time I was there, I did go to the US but I couldn’t meet Kamala because she was busy. But we are all there, the entire family,” she said.

Harris has often spoken about her mother in the public domain. After she announced that she would contest the Presidential election, she said that she missed her mother’s presence.

“Thinking of my mother today. She was smart, fierce, and my first campaign staffer — and I dearly wish she was here with us for this moment. Her spirit still drives me to fight for our values,” she tweeted.

In another tweet, she wrote “My mother used to say “don’t sit around and complain about things, do something.” If you believe like me that we can build a better future for our children and grandchildren, go tohttp://kamalaharris.org and join us.”

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| Edited by: Zoya Mateen
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