P. V. Gopalan

Painganadu Venkataraman Gopalan (1911 – February 1998)[1] was an Indian career civil servant, a member of Central Secretariat Service who served as Director of Relief Measures and Refugees in the government of Zambia, especially the exodus of refugees from Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).[2][3] While in Zambia, he later served as Advisor to 1st President of Zambia Kenneth Kaunda.[4] He served as Joint Secretary to the Government of India in 1960s. He is the grandfather of U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris.[1][5]

P. V. Gopalan
Personal details
Born1911 (1911)
Thulasendrapuram, India
DiedFebruary 1998 (aged 86–87)
Madras, India (now Chennai)
SpouseRajam Gopalan
Children4, including Shyamala
RelativesKamala Harris (granddaughter)
Maya Harris (granddaughter)
Meena Harris (great-granddaughter)

Gopalan was a member of the Imperial Secretariat Service and later a Central Secretariat Service officer.[6][7][8]

Early lifeEdit

Gopalan was born into a Tamil Brahmin family in 1911 in Thulasenthirapuram, Mannargudi a village in the erstwhile Tanjore District, Madras Presidency, in India.[1]


Gopalan joined[when?] the Imperial Secretariat Service during British rule in India and later merged into Central Secretariat Service.[6] He served as Under Secretary to the government of India in the Ministry of Transport (Roads Wing).[6] In the 1950s, he was posted as a senior commercial officer in Bombay.[1] He worked on the rehabilitation of refugees from East Pakistan in India.[4]

Rising through the ranks, Gopalan was later empanelled and served as Joint Secretary to Government of India in the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Rehabilitation.[9] He was later deputed to the government of Zambia and lived in Lusaka as Director of Relief Measures and Refugees,[9] to help Zambia manage an influx of refugees from Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).

Personal lifeEdit

P. V. Gopalan was married to Rajam Gopalan. They had four children: the oldest, a daughter, Shyamala, who earned a PhD in endocrinology at the University of California, Berkeley, and went on to have an academic and research career in the US and Canada; a son, Balachandran, who received a PhD in economics and computer science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and returned to an academic career in India; a daughter, Sarala, an obstetrician who practised in Chennai; and the youngest, another daughter, Mahalakshmi, an information scientist, who worked for the Government of Ontario, Canada.[1] Gopalan was the grandfather of lawyer Maya Harris, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, and academic Sharada Balachandran Orihuela.[1][5] Shyamala and her daughters used to visit Gopalan every few years, and Kamala has said that she was strongly influenced by his progressive political views on democracy and women's rights, especially their right to education.[10] He later bought an apartment in Besant Nagar and lived in Chennai until his death.[11]

Further readingEdit

  • The Truths We Hold: An American Journey (Publisher: Random House; ISBN 978-1473567863)
  • Kamala Harris: Phenomenal Woman (Publisher: HarperCollins; ISBN 9354227651)


  1. ^ a b c d e f Bengali, Shashank; Mason, Melanie (25 October 2019). "The progressive Indian grandfather who inspired Kamala Harris". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  2. ^ "How Kamala Harris's 'Family of Fighters' Influenced Her Campaign Message". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  3. ^ "Kamala Harris says inspired by her super hero Indian-American mother". The Economic Times. PTI. 11 January 2019. Retrieved 15 August 2020.
  4. ^ a b "Kamala takes a strong stand on rights, but not dogmatic: uncle". The Hindu. Retrieved 17 August 2020.
  5. ^ a b Ganapathy, Nirmala (16 August 2020). "Kamala Harris' Indian roots remain in focus back home". The Straits Times. Retrieved 18 November 2020.
  6. ^ a b c "Gazette of India, 1956, No. 34 (Archived)". Government of India. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  7. ^ "'Losing out': Indian Americans say Kamala Harris needs to do more to win them over". Washington Examiner. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  8. ^ "The New Face of Politics…An Interview with Kamala Harris". Archived from the original on 11 December 2010. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  9. ^ a b "Gazette of India, 1966, No. 423 (Archived)". Government of India. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  10. ^ Gettleman, Jeffrey; Raj, Suhasini (16 August 2020). "How Kamala Harris's Family in India Helped Shape Her Values". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 August 2020.
  11. ^ "Raising a Veep Candidate: Meet the Progressive Grandfather From TN Village Who Shaped Kamala Harris' Journey". News18. Retrieved 17 August 2020.

External linksEdit

Order of precedence
Preceded by
Order of Precedence of India
as Joint Secretary to Government of India

Succeeded by