NEW DELHI: Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris’s maternal uncle, Gopalan Balachandran, would be flying to Washington for participation in the swearing-in ceremony of his close relative, which will take place at a glittering ceremony on January 20.
The 80-year-old stays at Malaviya Nagar here while one of his daughters is settled in the US. His daughter, a college professor, is assisting Kamala organise herself for the grand event.
Kamala Harris, born of a Chennai-origin Brahmin mother Shyamala who migrated to the US at age 19 and a Jamaican father by name Donald Harris, will be the highest-ranking woman ever in the US establishment when she takes over as Vice President alongside Joe Biden as president. Both are democrats, who were selected to the posts in the hotly contested presidential polls this month.
Kamala’s father Gopalan hailed from a Brahmin family in a village called Painganadu, nearly 200 miles south of Chennai. Mother Rajam too hailed from a nearby area. Gopalan started as a stenographer, and was later placed as an official in the Civil Service. He worked in New Delhi, Mumbai and Calcutta.
Shyamala migrated to the US in 1958, for a Master’s program in nutrition and endocrinology at University College, Berkeley. She passed away in 2009 after suffering from colon cancer. She went to the US after her graduation in the Lady Irvin College, Delhi. Her marriage with Donald Harris, whom she met through the black rights movement, was 1963. He was then an economics student from Jamaica. The two divorced in the 1970s.
Shyamala’s brother G. Balachandran worked as a consultant with the Manohar Parrikar Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses here. He holds a PhD in economics and computer science from the University of Wisconsin. He is married to a Mexican woman. A sister of Shyamala and Balachandran, Sarala, lives in Chennai and works as obstetrician; and another by name Mahalakshmi lives in Ontario, Canada, as an information scientist. Balachandran’s daughter worked as assistant professor in English in the University of Maryland, US.
Shyamala used to frequent Chennai, where Gopalan settled down after retirement. Kamala and her sister Maya came to Chennai along with their mother on such visits. The two girls knew a spattering of Tamil language. Since her father had divorced, Kamala was mostly with her mother and inherited more of Indian culture. Shyamala’s father had worked in Zambia for a period, on deputation from the Indian government when it attained freedom from the British. IHN-NN
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