US Vice President Kamala Harris made everyone proud as she rose to the second top position of the most powerful country in the world. However, it might not have been possible at all, had her mother not returned back to the US after moving to Canada. Talking about the incident, Kamala Harris’ mother Shyamala Gopalan’s friend Dr Mina Bissel recalls how Shyamala had moved to Canada after being denied a promised professor position at the University of California. Bissell, in a conversation with journalist Savita Patel for The Quint, said that Shyamala was a researcher at the University of California, while she headed the Cell & Molecular Biology division at Lawrence Berkley Lab. They both were up for a prestigious professor job in the 1970s when women were rare for such jobs.
Bissell added that Shyamala had been promised that she will get to stay at the Department of Physiology and if a job became available, she would be given that. However, the job was advertised after becoming available and the promise made to Shyamala wasn’t honoured. Shyamala came to Bissel and told her that she should sue them jointly. She sued them but was fired after it and soon moved to Canada. Kamala was only 12 years old back then. Shyamala continued her research at McGill University in Canada but her friendship with Bissell continued. Bissell even met her on a visit to Canada.
Later, after becoming the director at California’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Bissell ‘helped’ Shyamala return to the US. She jokes that had she not brought Kamala’s mother back to the US, she would not have been the Vice President. Dr Gopalan and Dr Bissell worked together in research on cancer at California’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory for many years after that.
Bissell recalls that Shyamala was a devoted mother and she never allowed society’s expectation to dictate her. Even though she was very young while raising her kids- Kamala and Maya, she was a terrific mother. Shyamala passed away at the age of 70 in 2008, leaving behind a legacy in breast cancer research.
In her campaign to the run-up to Vice President, Kamala had credited her mother for not allowing society to define them.