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To Ohio and back

To me, Ohio is about watching Steve and Maggie on Youtube; walking amid half empty bottles of milk, an assortment of toys and stray crayons; eating Kirkland’s ice cream bars and madeleines; and getting kissed and hugged by the three-year-old niece.

N and I drove to Stow, Ohio, on Saturday morning. We started around 5 am, when the moon, big and bright, still dominated the blue sky. It followed us, as we began a journey of 430 miles, passing three States. In Ohio, we remained within the comfort of home, even as winds picked up speed, and swayed the trees outside. Indian home food, Malayalam movies, and lots of catch and throw. In the night, once my niece was asleep, we watched the final episode of Game of Thrones, and went to bed, a little disappointed. But the morning brought the sound of happy laughter and excited squeaks from the little one.

We painted, stuck stickers, and watched a new series, Barbie’s Life in the Dreamhouse, on Netflix.  We took a little walk outside, but the wind swept her red cap away. So we walked back home.

After a heavy lunch, it was time to leave. We packed our bags, and started our drive back home. This time, there was no moon following us. Even the sun left us midway. In the darkness, guided by street lights, we crossed the 430 miles, and got back to our warm, cozy bed. Waves of silence slowly rocked us to sleep. Only to take us back to the effortless laughter of the three-year-old niece in Ohio.

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Six Flags

Six Flags (Great Adventure) was more than about rides.  It was about this red bottle which never ran out of soda. It was about the overly juicy, pesto-dripping bread that we had for lunch. Of course it was about Nitro, Batman and Bizarro, but it was also about the really funny photo captured of us shouting our lungs out. It was about waiting in line for an hour for the first row in El Toro, and of cheering for the little kid who was too scared before the ride, but too happy after. It was about getting drenched to the bones in Log Flume, and shooting with an unforeseen rage at all the 4d creatures, in Justice League. But most importantly, it was about feeling like a superhuman for one day. Floating in the sky, riding along with the wind…and getting a little closer to the bright yellow Sun.


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Walking with the geese

A flock of chocolate brown geese trundle along the rolling hills of Carousel Park. A row of goslings follow the adults in obeisance. The sun shimmers on their fur, giving them a golden glow. Tempted, we go closer, but are chased away by the strong, vigilant adult geese. We let them be, and instead, immerse ourselves in the beauty of the steel blue lake, luscious green trees, and clear skies. The trail is a soft carpet of fresh grass, peppered with yellow buttercups. Above us, trees merge their heads forming a thick canopy. We stop to notice the names of trails (Robinhood, Lady Marian), listen to the neighing of horses, and observe the wide green leaves of a certain plant that, we are warned, stinks! Just when we are about to end our hike, we make a plan for another — New Castle County Police Mounted Patrol is organizing a 5K run to raise funds to support the active duty and retired horses, on May 19, 2019. For details, log on to ClydesdaleCops.org.

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Saturday nights

Saturday nights are always riddled with questions. Should we order in or cook? Should we watch a movie at home or go out for one?

We decided to head out. The first wave of Spring had hit the town. Everyone, as if in obeisance to the new season, shed their jackets, and marched the streets in soft cotton shirts. At City Tap House, the bartenders filled one glass after another with chilled beer and handed it to youngsters, who sipped and licked their lips now full of beer foam. Then, in unison, they looked up at the television right above the bartender. A college basketball game was on. We stood waiting for our beers, while the crowd around us, as if rehearsed, cheered and booed together. The Tap House extended beyond the four walls, into a space overlooking the streets of Philadelphia. There we stood, watching people talk; words had begun to slur for some. Empty beer glasses, stacked one on on top of the other, grew into small pillars. With it grew the night and the noise.

Should we stay back or head home? Should we grab dinner at a Thai place or a Greek one? Saturday nights are always riddled with questions.

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Where the creek flows

The bluish green Brandywine creek followed us for a while, before hiding behind a cluster of brown branches and trunks. Then there was just us, the hard paved road, and the quiet of the woods. In that almost meditative silence, we heard the wind howl, and birds sing. As if lured by these sounds, we walked towards them, not minding the steep slope, the wet ground, or the slim paths that grew slimmer. The woods now seemed thicker and chaotic, like a brown crayon scribbling by a child. Our shoes brushed fresh yellow buttercups, while our eyes grazed the flawless blue sky. When we returned after an hour-and-a-half walk, the bluish green creek still stood calmly waiting for us. 

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Spring is here

When we started our walk at Valley Garden Park, Delaware, we hoped to catch sight of some stunning daffodils. What we came across along the way, was so much more. At every crossroad, we took a cue from Robert Frost, and chose the one less traveled. And weren’t we glad we did. For, through a mesh of white pine, oak and beech trees, we saw a herd of deer galloping by at a distance. Our trail rose and fell, with the ground alternating between a bed of dried leaves and a blanket of fresh green grass. When the sun shone brighter, we peeled off our jackets and beanies, and let our skin soak in the warmth. A pair of glossy frogs leapt into a thin stream of water, as we slowed down to see a splash of color — new born lavender crocuses, white snowdrops, and a thin line of graceful yellow daffodils at a far distance. For all the beauty that surrounded us, we said thank you in the best way we could — by giving a tight hug to a faintly greening tree.

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At the carousel

We walked close to four miles, for two hours, at Carousel Park, Wilmington. Tall trees, still leafless, rose above us, guarding a trail that changed from paved roads, to graveled paths, and wet and muddy stretches, with every turn. On our way, we saw a tree with a mysterious dark cavernous opening; a little distance away was a giant trunk etched with names of those who had been there before us. As we inched closer to the Enchanted Lake, a brace of ducks shooed us away. So we made our way to Huckleberry Hill, where a pair of donkeys looked at us with a sense of disinterest. We also made a quick trip to the stable to meet our horse friends Lil Red, Diesel and Cutie. And just as we were about to leave, we stumbled upon an interesting arrangement of pebbles on the grass; it read ‘Joy’ — quite aptly summarizing what we felt at the end of the walk.

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Ice skating

Biweekly drawing challenge Theme #3: Winter Sports

A one-day trip to New York City. We had wandered in and out of the dove-inspired Oculus, taken a photo next to the charging bull, and scanned the beauty of Empire State Building from outside. Our bus back to Philadelphia was in three hours. After a quick tour of New York Public Library, and a meal at Indikitch, it was time to head to Time Square. But just a quick stop at Rockefeller Center, one of us suggested.

We saw rows of flags of different countries standing tall, brightly lit trees, and a bunch of people gliding smoothly on an ice skating rink. While some kids, cheeks pink, whooshed passed us on their steely skates, some others slowly gathered courage to leave their parents’ hands and skate solo. A group of teenage girls giggled nervously while making their way forward in a loud human chain; couples whispered, too eager to save the other from falling.

We stood by the railing, soaking in the diverse crowd, the cacophony of different voices… painting in our minds, a picture of the NYC that we wanted to take back with us.

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On mire and slush

It was a pleasant day. The sun shone bright. The sky hung cloudless above us. But as we walked along the Brandywine Creek State Park, Delaware, the black tarred roads disappeared under a layer of cracked ice. With walking sticks, we found our balance, moved thorny shrubs, and poked on frozen mire that lay like lumps of dark chocolate. The creek followed us, often changing its appearance from a crease-less sheet of glass to a colony of ice blocks. Shoes muddy, foreheads sweaty and jackets unzipped, we wrapped up our little three-mile adventure and called it a (pleasant) day!

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Going around Philly

Standing at the Rocky Steps

Hello.

I am in Philadelphia. While standing at the bottom of the Rocky Steps, a band of musicians look at me and sing ‘Fly Eagles Fly’ (The Philadelphia Eagles Fight song).

I want to tell them that what they see on my either side are not wings but flippers. I want to tell them flying is overrated. Instead, I straighten my red bow, flap my flippers, and with all the endurance I could muster, I jump up the 72 stone steps that Rocky Balboa sped with ease. It works, they stop singing, and throw miniature soccer balls into the audience’ hands.

I waddle to where a larger-than-life hangs with a little crack along its body. The liberty bell is 250 years old, that’s the life span of my fellow water buddies – the tortoises. The bell, I learn, stands as a symbol of political and religious freedom of all people who make America their home.

As a proof of this, I see a bunch of Asians, practice Falun Gong, an ancient Chinese practice that combines meditation and martial arts, at the park right opposite to where the bell hangs.

People practising Falun Dafa

I walk on. Past City Hall, the largest municipal building in the United States, and Carpenters Hall, where the first continental congress meet was held to discuss the Americans’ grievances against Britain’s unjust laws. Past the Museum of American revolution, the Irish Memorial, and the Washington Monument.

I only stop to buy a block of cheese from the Reading Terminal Market, and watch kids and adults skate (some fall) at the ice rink in Penn’s Landing. Then I continue my walk past shiny and shimmery Ferraris and Maseratis at Simeone Foundation Automative Museum.

My bill begins to chatter as the first powdery snow of the year falls on my back. So I seek shelter in the Christ Church Neighborhood House, and sit for a play called The Boomerang Kid, until my tail unstiffens and claws uncurl.

D

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In Dallas for the first time

Dallas downtown

Hello,

It’s very unlike me, but I wanted to escape the cold of Delaware. So I went to Dallas on the second day of 2019. But, as always, life is full of ironies. I was welcomed with a downpour, and low temperatures.

Anyway, I shook off the water from my flippers, and set straight to the artsy part of Dallas. The Downtown. I went inside the Holocaust Museum and wept seeing a reproduction of Anne Frank’s Diary. The real one is kept safe at Anne Frank’s House in Amsterdam, and taken out once in 10 years for study, I learnt.

To cheer myself up, I stepped into a world of 18th and 19th century European and American art and sculptures at Dallas Museum of Art. I couldn’t get enough of Renoir and Degas. But it was time to go.

The next day, it was relatively warmer, so I went out to Russel Creek Park for a stroll. And the following day to Arbor Hills Nature Preserve. I had my fill of Indian food – vada paav, dabeli, and raj kachori. That and a drink called Lolita from Haywire had me dancing like my brother Happy Feet.

When out from food coma, we drove to Cowtown Coliseum at Fortworth Stockyards Historic District, and watched the Wild West Show. I squawked until my bill trembled; the cowboys and their tricks with whips and guns had me roll down the seat like a Telstar soccer ball.

Shaken up by the show, next day, I went to Plano Meditation Center, and sat in silence, visualizing a pure white sheet of ice to calm my nerves.

D

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In DC

Reflecting.

I am in the Capital of the United States. Here, everybody looks like me. Long black coats, snow white stiff shirts. But the gait… is that of a hunter. Stern, focused. Probably, I look that when I am off to bring back a fish or two. Probably not.

Today, for the first time, I had a cocktail of dry gin, orgeat and cilantro. It came with a thin spiral slice of cucumber swimming in it. Loved it – it got me warm enough for the chill outside.

Next stop was Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History. After waiting in a long line, and paying a dollar for the museum floor map, we got in to see the rarest of gems, a whole lot of mummies, and the skeletons of Neanderthals.

Everything was going great, until I found a photo of those my kind.

This one.

This sent me down a wormhole of questions about existence. But then again, one look at the dry twig-like bones of a human ancestor; and words of late Chester Bennington calmed me. Because in the end, it doesn’t even matter.

D