“This family had an immaculate reputation,” said N. Vyas, a retired doctor who was their neighbor upstairs. “They were never thrilled with the great things they did in Delhi or anything like that. They were simple shooters – down to earth, happy people.
Dr Vyas’ wife Jayanti, who is also a retired doctor and leaned in the doorway, shook her head with a knowing smile.
“We’re not surprised,” she said of Ms. Harris who was named the first woman of color on a major American party’s presidential ticket.
“You see, all the women in her family are strong personalities,” she said. “These are women who know what they are talking about and what they are saying.”
Gopalan’s story began in a small village south of Chennai called Painganadu, where Ms. Harris’ grandfather was born in 1911. In terms of India’s caste system, the family was at the top of the hierarchy. . These were Tamil Brahmins, an elite subculture known as the TamBrahms.
But Ms Harris’ uncle said the family had never looked down on the lower castes and that her parents valued education above all else.
The grandfather left the village as a young man to take a job as a stenographer for the British colonial government. Ms Harris wrote in her memoir that he was part of India’s independence movement, but other family members said he never mentioned it. If he had campaigned openly, like Mohandas K. Gandhi or other freedom fighters, to break with Britain, he might not have gone too far with his British bosses.