One banner described her as ‘Singapenn’ (fearless or lion-hearted woman) while others carried such taglines as “Thulsendrapuram to America, bring laurels to the home country” and “People of the village wish Kamala Harris, who has Thulasendrapuram Agraharam as her native, win the election”. Kamala was born to Shyamala Gopalan, one of the daughters of Gopalan, and Donald Harris in California.
“Until she was chosen for the election to a powerful post in the US, we had no idea about her. But when she was nominated, we felt proud at having a woman with roots in our village in the political arena of a superpower,” village committee member M Gurunathan, 57, told TOI. He had erected some of the flex banners on behalf of Thulasendrapuram residents to celebrate the proud moment.
S V Ramanan, administrator of the Dharma Sastha temple of the village, is in touch with the family of P V Gopalan who was born in the Agraharam (a colony of Brahmin residents) in Thulasendrapuram in 1911. An Indian civil servant, Gopalan had served in Zambia as Director of Relief Measures and Refugees.
“I haven’t met her since I was in Chennai for my profession till my retirement. But as my father told me, Kamala Harris had visited the village several years ago,” said Ramanan who is a retired central government employee.
Ramanan recalled instances of Kamala’s aunt Dr Sarala Gopalan asking him to pray for the victory of Kamala Harris in her political career. He said Sarala would visit the temple once in a few years. “Her aunt is in touch with us asking us to perform pujas for them,” he said adding that Kamala through her aunt had donated money for the consecration of the Dharma Sastha temple in 2014 which is the family deity temple of Gopalan. The name of Kamala Harris has been etched on the plaque in the temple.
Ramanan also said that besides the descendants of Gopalan, there are around five families of Agraharam who migrated to the US and settled in California. The house of Gopalan was demolished several years ago, said Ramanan, but he didn’t know if anyone else had bought it from them.
“The Agraharam which had more than 100 families has narrowed down to 10 now,” he said. Exuding confidence that she will win, both Ramanan and Gurunathan hoped Kamala will visit their village after becoming the vice-president of the US.