‘This Was About Kamala and Much More’: US VP Elect’s Uncle on What the Result Means

Kamala Harris' mother Shyamala Gopalan was 19 when she moved to the U.S. from the southern Indian city of Chennai.
DR
Delhi, IN
November 9, 2020, 1:24pm
Kamala Harris' uncle G Balachandran at his residence in New
For almost a week, G Balachandran, New Delhi-based maternal uncle of U.S. Vice-President elect Kamala Harris closely tracked the 2020 presidential race. Photo courtesy of Prakash Singh/AFP 

“It was madness,” Kamala Harris' Indian uncle Gopalan Balachandran told VICE News. 

He has fielded incessant calls, messages and media interviews since Saturday night, Nov. 7, when his niece, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, was declared U.S. Vice-President elect alongside Democratic nominee Joe Biden, who edged ahead of President Donald Trump after a dayslong count of mail-in ballots.

Balachandran, 79, a New Delhi-based defence expert, described the past week as one made of days which were “full of activity” to “relatively free” and “just manageable”.

“I tell them ‘I’m Kamala Harris’ unemployed uncle’”, he said, laughing. “Maybe this way, I will get a job.”

On Friday, Balachandran spoke to Harris for around 15 minutes over a family group call. He said since Harris initiated the call, “It was clear that she was confident of winning.”

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Balachandran told Harris that “She was on her way to victory.”

The last time he met Harris was in the U.S. in 2017. Last year when Balachandran was in Washington D.C., Harris was in Michigan. They spoke but could not meet.

Democratic challenger Joe Biden won 273 Electoral College votes after  nail-biting tallies in some key battleground states during the presidential race that remained too narrow to call until the end.

Kamala Harris' ancestral village in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu

Children hold placards with the portrait of US Vice-President elect Kamala Harris at her ancestral village in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu on November 8, 2020. Photo courtesy of STR / AFP

As the 46th U.S. President, Biden will take over from Republican incumbent Trump whose campaign team has questioned the credibility of election and even filed lawsuits in some states alleging fraud.

Kamala Harris is the first woman, first Indian-American and the first person of South Asian descent ever to become the U.S. Vice-President elect.

“For me, this U.S. election was about Kamala,” said Balachandran. “At the same time, it was much more than that. It was about the future of the world.”

Harris' mother Shyamala Gopalan was 19 when she moved to the U.S. from the southern Indian city of Chennai. She married Donald Harris who was pursuing economics at the University of California, Berkeley. Gopalan, a breast cancer researcher, died in 2009. Donald Harris is currently professor emeritus at Stanford University.

Kamala's Harris' sister, Maya Harris, was her campaign chairwoman. Maya was previously involved with the American Civil Liberties Union and served as vice president at the Ford Foundation. “We leaned on each other,” Kamala spoke of the bond she shared with Maya, in an interview with The Washington Post. “We forged a bond that is unbreakable.”

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On Sunday, Nov 8, Maya Harris took to Twitter to congratulate her elder sister. “Madam Vice President-Elect @KamalaHarris. I am so very proud of you, sis,” she tweeted.

During her victory speech, Harris mentioned her mother's contribution. “When she came here from India at the age of 19, she maybe didn't quite imagine this moment. But she believed so deeply in an America where a moment like this is possible. And so, I'm thinking about her and about the generations of women — Black women, Asian, White, Latina, Native American women who throughout our nation's history have paved the way for this moment tonight.”

Harris' ancestral village, around 300 kms from Chennai, has been in a festive mood for the last two days with prayers, rituals, meals and traditional dances. For village residents, particularly women, Harris' victory has opened a world of possibilities.

In New Delhi, Balachandran is waiting for things to slow down a bit so that he can plan his U.S. travel. “There is no way I'm going to miss the inaugural in January,” he said, setting off for another TV interview. 

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