“Chiththi”: With One Tamil Word In Her Acceptace Speech, US Democratic Vice-Presidential Candidate Kamala Harris Warms The Hearts of Millions pf Tamils in India and Throughout the World

By Hannah Ellis-Petersen

As a child wandering between the legs of the aunts, uncles and family friends who filled her grandparents’ apartment in Chennai, in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, a young Kamala Harris grew used to being addressed in Tamil.

It was the main language spoken by her grandmother, who had only fragmented English, and over the years of Harris’s childhood trips from California to Chennai – which back then was called Madras – to visit her mother’s side of the family, she slowly learned to understand, if not speak, the mother tongue of her Indian relatives.

Standing at the Democratic convention podium last week accepting her historic nomination for US vice-president, Harris made a passing but significant nod to this aspect of her heritage. She said her mother had “raised us to know and be proud of our Indian heritage”, adding: “Family is my uncles, my aunts and my chithis.”

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