US Vice-President-Elect Kamala Harris Is Named After A Hindu Goddess

How does it feel like to break through a vice-presidential glass ceiling? Only 1 woman in United States history knows.

Ms Kamala Devi Harris, 56, made history as the first female vice-president-elect of the US after most media outlets called the 2020 race for her and running mate Joe Biden, who will be president.

She will make history in more than one way, as not only will she be the first woman to hold the position, she will be the first person of black descent and Asian descent to do so.

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With all eyes on her now, public curiosity about the woman will now be at fever pitch.

Thus, MS News has compiled 5 of the most cool facts about Ms Harris in anticipation of her taking office in Jan 2021.

Doesn’t she look like a supercool Charlie’s Angel in this old photo?
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1. She’s named after a Hindu goddess

After knowing many prominent US female politicians with typical anglophile names like “Hillary” (Clinton), “Elizabeth” (Warren) and “Nancy” (Pelosi), many would find Ms Harris’ first name “Kamala” to be rather unusual by American standards.

However, given that her mother is Indian, it seems quite logical that Ms Harris would have an Indian first name.

Ms Harris (right) with mother Shyamala Gopalan (left) and aunt Sarala Gopalan.
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In fact, her name was chosen by her mother, Shyamala Gopalan. “Kamala” means “lotus” in Sanskrit, according to Politico.

It’s also another name for Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of good fortune.

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This deity is one of the most popular goddesses in Indian mythology, and symbolises wealth and purity.

She is also believed to dwell in places which amplify virtue and bravery, which in taking on President Donald Trump in the election, Ms Harris seems to embody very well.

To many Singaporeans, though, they might just remember her name as “alamak” spelt backwards.

2. Her grandpa was an Indian government official

Ms Harris is not the only one in the family who went into politics. In fact, we can say that politics runs in her blood.

Her grandfather P.V. Gopalan, was a high-ranking government official in India, according to the LA Times.

He was born in 1911 in Painganadu, a village in the state of Tamil Nadu that’s situated 290km south of Chennai, to a Brahmin family — considered the elites in Hinduism’s caste system.

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Most of the men in this caste would take up careers in academia, government service or the priesthood, while the women were not expected to work.

After he joined the government service in the 1930s, the Indian government sent him on assignment to Zambia to manage the large flow of refugees seeking asylum from Zimbabwe.

Mr Gopalan was quintessential in this role because Zimbabwe was just freed from British rule at that time. Political stability was paramount, so the Indian government entrusted him with this crucial task.

(Back row from left) Ms Harris, grandma Rajam Gopalan, grandpa P.V. Gopalan & sister Maya. (Front row from left) Maya’s daughter Meena & a cousin.
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In his 40-year career, that was to be Mr Gopalan’s most illustrious laurel.

Ms Harris said that her grandfather was one of her most favourite people in the world. She also shared in her memoir “The Truths We Hold” that he had been part of India’s fight for independence.

3. She held a protest at age 13

When she was young, it would’ve been best not to mess with Ms Harris’ playtime.

(From left) Ms Harris, Maya, and her mother 
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As she was displeased with the policy banning children from playing on the lawn in front of her apartment block in Montreal, Canada, she and her sister Maya held a protest right at that very site, according to the Mercury News.

Amazingly, the policy was overturned due to their demonstration.

The other amazing fact? Ms Harris was only 13 at the time.

Looks like she’s used to speaking her mind, which served her well during her debate with Vice-President Mike Pence.

4. She waved goodbye to poo to cope with stress

Law school was “brutal” for Ms Harris, who attended the University of California Hastings College in San Francisco from 1987 – 1989.

Ms Harris graduating from law school, with her mother & teacher Frances Wilson (left).
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She shared in an interview with Politico in 2018 that she had a very erm, interesting, way to deal with the stress and politics of college.

She helped her sister potty train her niece, and they would all wave goodbye to a piece of poo in the toilet at the end of the day.

How on earth did that help her? She said,

It will put this place in perspective.

Let’s hope that practise serves her well in the White House, which is also known for being a place with stinky people.

5. Obama thinks she’s hot

Although it’s 2020 and women shouldn’t be judged purely on their looks, some might find it flattering when a VIP thinks they’re hot.

That happened to Ms Harris in April 2013, when she was California’s attorney-general.

At a fund-raiser, then President Barack Obama described her as the “best-looking attorney-general” in the country.

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Luckily, he also described her as brilliant, dedicated and tough, according to TODAY.

However, after receiving flak for what was perceived as a sexist remark, Mr Obama apologised.

Those who slammed his comments said that if women are constantly judged by their looks, it’ll be difficult for them to achieve gender equality in the workforce.

Well, Mr Obama’s remarks certainly didn’t hamper Ms Harris from breaking through the glass ceiling.

Are you serious? That was pretty cool

The more we discover about the personal and professional past of Ms Harris, the more interesting she seems.

Women and minorities all over the world have been celebrating her accomplishment and we look forward to what she can achieve for the American people and the world come Jan 2021.

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Featured image adapted from LA Times and Bambridge Accountants.