Kamala Harris's maternal uncle Balachandran Gopalan said she can't speak Tamil, "can understand a little"
Kamala Harris's late mother left India in 1960, but half a world away from Washington the uncle and aunt of the US vice-president hopeful follow her every move -- and are very proud.
Ms Harris was born in California in 1964 to a Jamaican father, economics professor John Harris, and breast cancer specialist Shyamala Gopalan.
She was the first black attorney general of California -- the first woman to hold the post -- and the first woman of South Asian heritage to be elected to the US Senate.
Following her nomination on Tuesday as presidential hopeful Joe Biden's running mate, the 55-year-old is now seeking to become the first female vice president of the United States.
"There is no question about how happy we are," Ms Harris's maternal uncle Balachandran Gopalan, an academician in Delhi, told AFP on Wednesday.
"She is a very committed personality -- committed to public service and most importantly committed to common human decency," he said.
Shyamala Gopalan would often bring her daughters to India, the uncle said, and when she died in 2009 Ms Harris returned "to immerse her ashes in the Bay of Bengal".
He added that while Ms Harris can't speak Tamil, "she can understand a little bit".
He believes the nomination of Ms Harris -- her name meaning "lotus" in Tamil, as well as in Sanskrit and Hindi -- is a "big deal" for Indian Americans.
"So far they have only achieved high professional jobs, but this is one of the highest political jobs," he said.
- Up since 4 am -
Ms Harris's aunt Sarala Gopalan, who still lives in Chennai, the city her elder sister left at 19, said the entire family is "thrilled and happy".
"A friend of mine in the United States gave us the message at 4 am in the morning, and we have been up, since then," Ms Gopalan, a doctor, told a news channel.
"She is a person who never forgets her roots and believes in family values," she told a daily newspaper.
"Even today she calls me 'chithi' and she has always been a caring person," she said, using the Tamil word for addressing mother's younger sister.
And since Shyamala Gopalan is no longer alive, "we will always be available for Kamala and (her sister) Maya", she said.
Besides her mother, Ms Harris has said that a major influence was her maternal grandfather PV Gopalan -- father of Shyamala, Balachandran, Sarala and another daughter, Mahalakshmi -- a senior government official.
"He would take walks every morning along the beach with his buddies who were all retired government officials and they would talk about politics, about how corruption must be fought and about justice," Harris said in a 2009 interview.
"My grandfather was really one of my favourite people in my world."