By: Pramod Thomas
US vice president Kamala Harris visited her maternal grandfather P V Gopalan’s house in Zambia’s capital Lusaka where he lived as an Indian foreign service official in the 1960s.
Born in Chennai in 1911, Gopalan was an advisor to first president of Zambia Kenneth Kaunda and served as joint secretary to the Government of India.
“My visit to Zambia has a special significance for me, as many of you know, and for my family. As you know, I visited Zambia, Mr President, as a young girl when my grandfather worked here,” Harris told reporters in Lusaka at a joint news conference with Zambian president Hakainde Hichilema.
“In 1966, shortly after Zambia’s independence, he came to Lusaka to serve as a director of relief measures and refugees. That was his title. He served as an advisor to Zambia’s first president, Kenneth Kaunda. And he was an expert on refugee resettlement.”
While in Lusaka in the 1960s, Gopalan lived at 16 Independence Avenue, where 58-year-old Harris visited as a little girl.
“I remember my time here fondly. I was a child, so it is the memory of a child. But I remember being here and just how it felt, the warmth and the excitement that was present,” Harris said.
She said she spoke to her aunt recently who reminded her of the relationships she made while working at a hospital in Lusaka.
“So, from my family and from all of us, we extend our greetings and hello to everyone here,” Harris added.
Gopalan was deputed to the government of Zambia as the Director of Relief Measures and Refugees in January 1966 by the Indian government.
To perform these duties, he relinquished his role as the head of the office of the joint secretary in the Ministry of Rehabilitation.
He resumed charge of the Office of the Joint Secretary to the government of India in the Ministry of Rehabilitation in July 1969, on reversion from the government of Zambia.
He helped Zambia manage an influx of refugees from Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).
After much effort, the US embassy in Lusaka, while working with the VP’s office, located the spot they believe Gopalan lived.[TheChamp-Sharing]