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The name of U.S. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris — made from ingredients of a local savory Murukku at a village house in Thulasendrapuram — is seen in the hometown of Harris’ maternal grandfather, south of Chennai, Tamil Nadu state, India. A tiny village in a remote part of South India is gearing up for celebrations ahead of Kamala Harris’ inauguration as the first female vice president of the United States. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

Indian village cheers for Harris before swearing-in as U.S. VP

By Rishi Lekhi and Aijaz Rahi

The Associated Press

January 19, 2021

THULASENDRAPURAM, India (AP) — A tiny, lush-green Indian village surrounded by rice paddy fields was beaming with joy 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, first woman of color, and first person of South Asian descent to hold the vice presidency in the United States.

In her maternal grandfather’s hometown of Thulasendrapuram, about 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, 52, 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 U.S. elections in November, villagers in Thulasendrapuram had pulled together a ceremony at the main Hindu 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, 40, who has followed her politically and whose shop proudly displays a wall calendar with pictures of Biden and Harris.

Ahead of the inauguration, special prayers for her success are expected to be held at the local temple during which the idol of Hindu deity Ayyanar, a form of Lord Shiva, will be washed with milk and decked with flowers by the priest.

On Tuesday, an organization that promotes vegetarianism sent food packets for the village children as gifts to celebrate Harris’ success.

An Indian villager stands in front of a banner displaying photographs of U.S. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in Thulasendrapuram, the hometown of Harris’ maternal grandfather, south of Chennai, Tamil Nadu state, India, on January 19, 2021. The inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will take place within hours. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

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