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'I'll be a proud uncle when she becomes president also, the feeling doesn't change'

By SHOBHA WARRIER
Last updated on: November 09, 2020 21:44 IST
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'I was a proud uncle when she became the attorney general.'
'I was a proud uncle when she became a senator.'
'I am a proud uncle today when she is the vice president.'
'And I will be a proud uncle when she becomes the president.'

IMAGE: US Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, left, with her uncle Balachandran Gopalan and cousin Sharada. Photograph: Kind courtesy Balachandran Gopalan.
 

Kamala Harris, the first half-black, half-Indian American, is the vice president-elect of the United States of America.

It is well known that she is very close to her family from her mother Dr Shyamala Gopalan's side. Both her chitthis (aunts) were by her side for all the momentous occasions in her life.

Other than these two chitthis, she has also an uncle in India, Balachandran Gopalan, who was a consultant with the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses.

The phones of both the uncle and the aunt (Dr Sarala Gopalan) in India have not stopped ringing ever since the Biden-Harris win on Saturday, November 7, 2020.

In this interview to Shobha Warrier/Rediff.com, Mr Gopalan speaks about his niece, the US vice president-elect.

Your niece is America's vice president-elect. Was it expected?

Yes, it is a natural progression in her political career. First (California's) attorney general, then (United States) senator and now the vice president, and the president in the next four years's time.

She always pays rich tribute to her mother, your sister. Do you think she imbibed the fighting spirit from her?

She imbibed all her values from her mother and also her father (Professor Donald Harris, a Jamaica-born economist). Is it not natural?

She has followed whatever her mother used to tell her. Yes, her mother was a great influence. There is no doubt about that.

Shyamala went to the US when she was a young girl of 19, when there was no Indian community there. And she joined the civil rights movement the very day she joined the university. Even before completing her first year in university, she was fully immersed in the civil rights Afro-Asian movement in America.

Along with her studies and activism, she brought up two girls, and one of them is today the vice president-elect of the United States of America. Of course, she was a remarkable woman.

She was also a good cancer scientist.

Shyamala was my elder sister. I was fond of her and loved her, and she was also fond of me. No, there was no adulation of my sister. But looking back, I think she did a lot of things which I didn't.

IMAGE: A childhood photograph of Kamala with her younger sister Maya and mother Dr Shyamala Gopalan. Photograph: @mayaharris_/Instagram

How was Kamala as a young girl? Was she like her mother?

I met her only intermittently; not quite often. They were in America and I was here. Whenever I visited my sister, I found her very focused, very simple and a person adhering to her values.

There was intensity, firmness and focus in the way Kamala ran for attorney general and senator.

Were you glued to the TV as it took quite a few days for Biden-Harris to win?

I can't say I was glued to the television. Yes, the television was on, but I was doing my own things in front of the TV. I knew they were going to win, and there was no need for me to look at the screen all the time.

I would say, their win was not a great surprise for me.

I read that your daughter was helping Kamala at the campaign...

No, my daughter lives in Washington DC. Kamala is quite fond of her. When Kamala asked her to join the Biden headquarters on election day, she joined her there for five days. After that, she is back in Washington.

Did you talk to your niece after the win?

I spoke to her the day before the win, and congratulated her.

After the win was announced, I didn't call her. There was no point calling her as I knew she would be getting millions of calls and would be extremely busy. That was why I spoke to her the previous day.

As I knew she was going to win, I said, 'Kamala, you are going to win, Congratulations!'

Do you plan to go to the US for the inauguration?

Yes, all of us are planning to be there on January 20. Even when she was sworn in as senator, the entire family was there.

When all of us meet, the mood will be happy and cheerful like in all family meets. It cannot be otherwise. Of course, our elder sister's void will be felt. It is natural.

Are you a proud uncle?

I am proud of her. There is no need to have greater pride now that she is the vice president. Then, I will have to have bigger pride when she becomes the president in four years's time.

Yes, I am quite happy. Of course, I am proud and I will be after four years's time too.

I was a proud uncle when she became the attorney general. I was a proud uncle when she became a senator.

I am a proud uncle today when she is the vice president and I will be a proud uncle when she becomes the president also. The feeling does not change.

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