Chennai: As the news of Kamala Harris’ election as the new US Vice President began to pour in, villagers thousands of km away in Thulasendrapuram in Tamil Nadu celebrated the occasion by bursting crackers and distributing sweets.
No surprises here, because Harris’ maternal grandfather P.V. Gopalan hailed from Thulasendrapuram village located in Tiruvarur district. Some days ago, they had even held special prayers at Sri Dharmasastha Temple in their village for her victory.
The villagers drew big ‘kolams’ outside their homes to wish good luck to Harris. Big banners with pictures of the Democratic nominee were also put up by villages at some spots.
Earlier, when she was nominated as the running mate of presidential candidate Joe Biden, villagers had celebrated by distributing sweets.
But it not the first time that people in Tamil Nadu have prayed for the victory of an American candidate in the US presidential elections. In 2008, when Barack Obama and John McCain slugged it out, people of hosiery town Tiruppur had prayed for Obama’s win.
The economy of the knitwear garment exporting town of Tirupur, almost 400 km from state capital Chennai, is driven almost entirely by exports to more than 35 countries, with the biggest market in the US.
The slowdown in the US and European markets in 2008, a fluctuating rupee vis-a-vis the dollar and several local problems saw the town’s exports in fiscal 2007-08 dip for the first time since the early 1980s.
Export revenues in the town came down to Rs 99.5 billion ($2 billion) in 2007-08 from Rs 110 billion in the previous year. Now with the global financial meltdown drying up US and European orders further, the chances of growth disappeared, exporters had told IANS then.
But Tirupur’s exporters, ancillaries and workers believed an Obama win will change the glum situation.
“There is a general perception here that a Democrat-led US government is better for Indian business,” Azhill M.S. Mani, President of Tirupur Industrial Federation had told IANS.
“Obama is certainly a better bet if we go by his pre-election speeches and announcements,” echoed SK Vivekananda, Managing Director of knitwear exporter Shakthi Knitting Ltd.
People in the town, which houses 7,000-odd knitwear and ancillary units that employ around 600,000 workers, even chanted ‘Om Obama’ on the lines of ‘Om Labhum’.
Soon after, journalist turned film director Janaki Viswanathan produced movie “Om Obama” showcasing how a small village in Tamil Nadu gets affected due to globalisation and recession.
“Though the movie was not released in theatres, it was shown in some film festivals,” Viswanathan told IANS.
Queried if she harboured plans to make a movie on Harris, whose mother Shyamala comes from Chennai, Viswanathan quipped: “Why not? There was a meme with the White House sporting the name ‘Kamala Nivas’.”