WKND Special: The future is smiling at our youth

Malavika Varadan
Filed on November 12, 2020

How Kamala Harris’ win will teach the young to hope… and dream big

A woman, a black woman, a woman of South Asian descent is now the Vice President of the United States of America. And it’s about time.

Kamala Harris standing on stage in that white suit, with her wide smile, addressing the nation — this is the image that dominated my news feed this week, and every time I see that image, I smile. There are many reasons to smile.

To begin with, she is a woman. She is ‘Kamala’, she looks like us, a woman of South Asian descent, the daughter of immigrants, and she is smashing the glass ceiling, but that is because she stands on the shoulders of millions of women like her, who are holding her up and paving her way.

A few decades ago, a young woman from a Tamilian family just like mine, who was forced to study ‘home science’ in Lady Irwin College in India, dared to dream. She applied to Berkeley for a course in biochemistry. When Berkeley sent her the acceptance letter, her parents told her that they could only pay for one year of college, and she would have to find her way after that. She did.

She got her PhD, she met a man, fell in love and had two beautiful daughters called Maya and Kamala. There is a picture on the Internet of Kamala Harris, her sister, mother and grandparents when she was about 7. It could easily have been a picture from my family album. The grandparents who aren’t smiling, those thick winter jackets over cotton sarees, even the car in the background – looks exactly like a picture of my aunts and my mother from the 60s. It’s an image that reminds me of what it was like for the generation of women before mine who dared to leave their home countries to work and study and do better, so that their daughters could have more opportunities.

“While I may be the first woman in this office, I won’t be the last,” Kamala Harris said on stage, “Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.” A world of possibilities, I think.

Kamala Harris’ speech reminded me of why we chose this path. Why young women like me who packed their bags and set out to build a life in another country, did so. Why it is important for us to continue to fight for a better future, even though it may only come alive a generation later. Why we must never forget the hundreds of years of struggle that gave us a seat at the table. And why we speak now, at that table, for all those who don’t have a seat here yet.

I walk into my class of teenage girls today, excited. Look at the future, I say to them, it’s smiling at you!