Stree Shakti, women empowerment are the buzzwords in the public ecosystem around the world of late. Ancient cultures worshipped and celebrated the masculine and feminine. Both the western and eastern worlds honoured the uniqueness of nar and nari or the man and woman. Call it the yin and yang or prakriti and purusha, the innate powers of male and female make for a wonderful coming together of nature’s diversity.
Today, in a modern-world, terms like diversity, empowerment, strength, breaking barriers are sprinkled in conversations surrounding women who have and are in the process of leaving a mark in this world. Like Paulo Coelho mentions in The Alchemist, “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
Well, the dream of one American woman of black-south Asian background did come true in November, 2020. And that is exactly what sets US vice president-elect Kamala Harris apart from other US women senators in the past.
She has been projected as the ‘female Obama’ much prior to the elections. In fact, her closeness to president Barack Obama is well-known among the political circles in the US, who was also instrumental in helping her with her political growth.
Though her name was floating around for some time, Joe Biden made a rather calculated and timely decision to take Kamala Harris on board in August. “She is a fearless fighter for the little guy, and one of the country’s finest public servants,” tweeted Biden about his choice.
But it was an overnight victory for Kamala Harris. The strong, supremely talented and well-articulated Kamala Harris started her career as a lawyer and was the first black person to serve as California’s attorney general in 2010. This firmly placed her as the top lawyer in the most populous state in the US of A.
While there, Harris set her eye on the Senate and gained reputation as one of the rising and promising stars of the Democratic Party. Kamala Harris went on to be elected as California’s junior US senator in 2017.
And though Joe Biden picked Harris as an obvious choice, the president-elect said he was honoured to be serving with Ms Harris, who will make history as the first woman, first Black woman, first woman of south Asian descent and first daughter of immigrants ever elected to national office in this country.
But it is during her time as an attorney that she thoroughly honed her skills of questioning that came handy to her during her election debates. A Harvard alumni, Kamala Harris attributes her skills to her formative years at the law school. She has risen to the occasion, to the space that the universe was providing her to make a mark in the history of the United States of America. She was indeed chosen by the ‘universe’ to represent all those who have been marginalised for a long time in history and has become symbolic of hope and aspiration for those living in the periphery in nations around the world.
To top it all, she has proved that a woman, irrespective of her colour and background can make it big with her hard-work, dedicated and focused contribution to society and her confidence.
Being a part of public life, did not mean she did not fulfil her role as a beautiful better half to husband Douglas Emhoff, also a lawyer, for the past six years. Kamala Harris also happens to be step-mom to two children, Ella and Cole, who are her ‘endless source of love and pure joy’.
Today, Kamala Harris is everything that any career woman hopes to be – to be able to break the glass ceiling and reach a spot that is enviable to their contemporaries.
As for her Indian connection, it was an early Diwali in the quaint little town of Thulasendrapuram, who celebrated their international hero. With her roots going back to the almost non-descript village, the villagers distributed sweets and celebrated her success as their own.
And it is this facet of Kamala Harris that made her the darling of the masses in the United States too. She was a representative of the repressed and hidden hopes of innumerable immigrants, black people and coloured people of south-east Asia.
During her winning speech Harris said that while she may be the first woman to occupy the vice president’s office, she may not be the last.
But what makes the victory of 54-year-old Kamala Harris extra special or rather motivational is the fact that 78-year-old Joe Biden has made it clear that he will contest only one term. This is an indirect hint that if all factors work in her favour, she could be the next president-elect of the United States of America. Dressed in a white suit as a tribute to women’s suffrage, Harris said, “Tonight I reflect on their struggle, their determination and the strength of their vision to see what can be unburdened by what has been. President-elect Joe Biden had the character and audacity “to break one of the most substantial barriers that exists in our country, and select a woman and his vice president,” she added.
At a time when the US was engulfed with slogans of ‘black lives matter’ and ‘black votes matter’, the time was ripe for Kamala Harris to have her place in the sunshine.
Daughter of a Jamaican father and an Indian mother Shyamala Gopalan, Harris said, “when she came here from India at the age of 19, she maybe didn’t quite imagine this moment. But she believed so deeply in an America, where a moment like this is possible.” Unfortunately for Kamala, she lost her mother even before she could see the historic and path-breaking win of her daughter.
But Kamala did have her share of ‘insults’ along the way. When Georgia senator David Perdue made fun of her name in an October rally, the hashtag #MyNameIs took off on Twitter, with many south Asians sharing the meaning of their names. Incidentally, Kamala means lotus flower. She was spot on when referred to her Indian origin throughout her campaign, including calling out to her ‘chittis’ or her maternal aunts in her first speech as Biden’s running mate.
Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Kamala Harris simply brushed aside online discrimination against her laced with sexism and racism and Trump’s constant barbs to go ahead in her plan.
Well, to sum up the inspiration and success of the vice-president elect, here’s a small anecdote. One Ms Lane, a 41-year-old attorney of Hispanic and Asian heritage volunteered to do political campaigns for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. However, when asked why she brought along her daughters aged 6,9 and 11, to see Kamala Harris, she replied, “I want my girls to see what women can do.”
That one sentence totally encompasses the current and collective spirit of average Americans, who hail the ‘dream-like’ success of US vice president-elect Kamala Harris.
Astro-strategist Hirav Shah feels that her victory is symbolic of women power and the strides that women can take as leaders in years ahead.