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“With Trump, it is going to be a dirty fight. They are already calling her nasty Kamala, all sorts of stuff. She will give it back to him!” United States vice president nominee Kamala Harris’ uncle, Gopalan Balachandran, told The Quint as he beamed with pride as congratulatory messages poured in non-stop for days.
Aware of what lies ahead, he is not one bit worried about his niece. Harris’ determination to serve the people and her commitment to human rights will stand her in good stead in this race to become the vice president of the United States of America, her uncle said.
Balachandran said the family was proud of her and that he “always saw this coming”. “Kamala was a very good lawyer and this was not entirely unexpected. We knew she was bound to get the democratic nomination, even become the vice president of the United States,” he said matter of factly.
Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden announced California senator Kamala Harris as his running mate for the upcoming United States presidential elections scheduled for 3 November.
Born to an Indian mother and Jamaican father, 55-year-old Kamala Harris is the first American of Indian descent to be named for the coveted post.
Following Her Mother’s Trail
Kamala Harris’ commitment to human rights and justice is largely due to her mother Shyamala’s influence, he said.
She had left India when she was 19 years old, arrived in the US in 1960 to pursue cancer research. She then married Jamaican national Donald Harris after meeting him during the black civil rights movement in the 1960s.
Balachandran, who has a PhD in economics and computer science from the University of Wisconsin, said his sister Shyamala had “blazed the trail long before Kamala did”.
She was politically active in the United States when it was unheard of for Indian-Americans to do so.
In an interview with The Quint, he said, “Her mother influenced her a lot. She was an exceptional person though I didn’t think so at that time. Now looking back, what she did in the 60s was something no other Indian would have done.”
‘Being Humanitarian. Nothing Extraordinary’
Kamala Harris is the first American of Indian and African origin and only the third woman to run for vice president. Balachandran said how she is ‘not doing anything extraordinary’.
“She is following principles that are all humanitarian. Don’t divide people based on colour. Don’t pass laws that don’t benefit all. And that’s what she has been standing for. When someone asks her, ‘Oh you did this?’ She says, ‘I think everyone should be doing this.”Balachandran
“This quest for doing good for the society largely stems from her mother’s teachings on how one should, ‘Do what you can. Instead of sitting in one place and asking what to do,’” he said.
He said that as a district attorney, an attorney general and a senator she has already lent her voice to many and so she will be able to do so much more as a vice president.
“Her ambition has always been to extend herself to all,” he added.
‘Will Fight for Public Good’
When asked if she will stand up for women’s rights and discrimination of the blacks and South Asians, he said she will stand up for ‘human rights’.
“US is one of the most powerful countries and a lot of people listen to US. So it has to be a model country that others can follow. She will take a stand for human rights, and against how minorities should not be treated bad,” he said.
“She will work for healthcare as a basic right. She will fight for those values that all of us agree. That people should not be discriminated, law should be fair, everybody should have good health, access to good education. She will push for a lot of legislations ...like getting body cameras, convicts not being allowed to vote. She will ask how anyone can deny any man the right to vote. This is something that everybody fights for but as a vice-president she can actually do something about it.”Balachandran
On India-US Ties
Balachandran pointed out that there are ‘no outstanding issues’ between India and the United States. “There is a lot of racism but not just against Indians, but against Pakistanis, Chinese… everybody,” he said and assured she will stand up against all discrimination.
‘Did Small Things to Show Love’
When asked if Harris had benefitted from the liberal views of her grandfather, PV Gopalan, and grandmother Rajam, he said, “She was closer to my parents than I was. They used to go for a morning walk along the Elliot's beach in Besant Nagar. She would constantly ask her grandfather why he did something and how he did it...and all that he said really influenced her.”
He recalled the time when he went to San Francisco and saw how she had asked one of the councilmen to plant a tree in the name of her grandfather. A sapling was planted and a board that said ‘In honour of Sri Gopalan' was put up.
“She did such small things. When I was a little ill, she pushed me to go see a doctor. ‘We love you as we are family, so we will do this,’ she had told,” he added.
'Shyamala Would Be Proud’
When asked if he spoke to her before or after the announcement, he said he hasn’t and won’t speak till the US elections are over. He had told media channels on Wednesday, “If I tell her something, [they will say her] uncle is an expert on India-US relations and is advising her. The Indians are interfering in the US.”
But he did send her a message, “Congratulations Kamala! Shyamala would have been proud.”
When asked what advice he would like to give her, he laughed,
“I would like to tell her to follow Shyamala’s advice. Think before you do anything. Always ask yourself, what would Shyamala have said. If I said this to her she would tell me, ‘Uncle what are you telling me new? I always do that. Say something new.”Gopalan Balachandran, Kamala Harris’ Uncle