Growing up in India, I was never a proud Tamil. I was more of a proud Indian. Now, at 43, I try to be a decent human being and a global citizen, who is an Australian Resident. I’ve become so self-critical of everything that not a lot pleases or excites me anymore. But today is something else. Today is a momentous day, a day that could leave behind indelible footprints on the sands of time. For this one day, I’m going to drop my guard and celebrate a bit and even gloat a bit, if I may.
I’ve lived in Delaware, US, for 3 years. I’ve worked in Wilmington in Delaware. Joe Biden is from there. Kamala Devi Harris is the Vice President-elect. Mannargudi and Painganadu in Tamil Nadu, India, are not far away from where I grew up. That’s where Kamala Devi’s ancestors come from. With Sundar Pichai (CEO of Alphabet Inc.) running Google, may be, just may be, I’ll gloat a bit about my Tamil pride for today.
We must be having something right for breakfast on the banks of Kavery and Thamirabarani? It’s all in the water, you know. Perhaps it’s in our language (arguably the oldest in the world), culture, petrichor, the bravery, the entrepreneurship, the inclusiveness and in the doggedness of the people toiling on the parched soil. It’s the land of the great dynasties of Cholas, Pallavas and Pandyas. Cholas had a modern navy and their empire extended into Sri Lanka and the modern-day Indonesia. Thanjavur (home to an 11th century UNESCO world heritage Hindu Temple), Madurai (home to a 12th Century world-famous Temple) and Srirangam (one of the holiest of places for Hindus) are our beacons of pride. So are, Athankarai Pallivasal (an ancient mosque in South Tamil Nadu) and Velankanni (home to a 16th Century Portuguese-built Bascilica of Virgin Mary).
Tomorrow morning, I’ll stop being proud. I’ll criticise the Tamil Nadu politics, its casteism, her lack of infrastructure, its corruption and its puppets masquerading as politicians. Not today. Today, it’s all about Kamala Devi Harris. When Erin Burnett of CNN mentioned her full name with her throat choking with emotion, it was hard to hold back tears, doesn’t matter what your political affiliations were.
Of course, Kamala Harris is an American product. She’s not an Indian product, unlike Sundar Pichai or Indra Nooyi (former CEO of PepsiCo). She may not see eye to eye with the current Indian government on a few policies. But with this remarkable journey from Painganadu to Pennsylvania Avenue, she will have inspired 100s of young girls in Painganadu and Mannargudi. If a few girls, in their colourful ribbons and school uniforms, can bicycle a bit more confidently towards their schools, and if a few girls in those villages surrounding Mannargudi, confidently convince their parents to be permitted to relocate further to pursue their University degrees, she would have done her job.
Kamala Harris need not feel proud of her Indian / Tamil heritage. It’s what she instills in young girls and inspires them to dare to dream, that matters more.