Saturday, June 19

Indian Village Prays for a U.S. Election Victory for Kamala Harris

NEW DELHI — More than 8,000 miles from the White House, in an Indian village ringed by lush green rice paddies, several dozen people flocked into a Hindu temple, carrying roses and strings of sweet-smelling jasmine, uttering prayers for Senator Kamala Harris.

The village, Thulasendrapuram, has a special relationship to Ms. Harris, the Democratic vice-presidential nominee. It’s where her maternal grandfather was born more than 100 years ago.

On Tuesday, Thulasendrapuram, which is about eight hours’ drive from the southern city of Chennai, pulled together in a special ceremony at the main temple to wish Ms. Harris good luck on Election Day.

Men wearing white dhotis, a sarong-like wrap, and women in bright saris draped Hindu idols with flowers and chanted hymns. As the election began to unfold in the United States, everyone was bubbly with confidence that Joseph R. Biden, the Democratic nominee for president, and Ms. Harris, would win.

“She is the daughter of the village’s soil,” said Lalitha, a housewife, who could barely contain her excitement. “The position she has attained is unbelievable.”

Although Ms. Harris has been more understated about her Indian heritage than about her experience as a Black woman, her path to the U.S. vice-presidential nomination has also been guided by the values of her Indian-born mother and her wider Indian family.

In several speeches, Ms. Harris has gushed about her Indian grandfather, P.V. Gopalan, a civil servant who inspired her with his stories about fighting for the rights of Indians to win independence from Britain.

Villagers in Thulasendrapuram remember Shyamala visiting at least once and said that Ms. Harris had also stopped in when she was a girl. Her name is inscribed on a board at the main temple; apparently she donated some money, although no one remembered for sure.

As soon as the good luck ceremony wrapped up on Tuesday, villagers laid out a feast of idli and sambar, South Indian rice cakes with spicy lentil stew. Villagers were adamant that it was a favorite dish of Ms. Harris’s.

While Thulasendrapuram clearly leans Democrat in this election, President Trump has a lot of support in India. One man, who died recently, even built a backyard shrine to him.

In February, the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, hosted a huge welcome party for Mr. Trump during an official visit called “Namaste, Trump” (Hello, Trump).

The Indian media has been focused on this election as a referendum on Mr. Trump. There have been few stories about Ms. Harris and her India connections. Many Indians did not know (nor did many Americans, for that matter) that Ms. Harris was of Indian descent until she was put on the ticket.

But people in Thulasendrapuram knew.

And although Ms. Harris’s family left long ago, with her grandfather eventually moving to Chennai, the village is already planning big things. One villager said the temple was sure to get more donations, should Ms. Harris win. Another hoped the government would now build a college in this area, something residents have been wishing for for years.

“It’s quite obvious that the village people are hoping that once she wins this election she will do us some favors,” said R. R. Kalidas Vandayar, an elder. “We are hoping the prayers work.”

Prakash Elumalai contributed reporting from Thulasendrapuram, India.

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