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 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

Back in D Town


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Hello.

I am back home, in Delaware. Outside, the snow is forming a thin blanket. On any other day, I would have jumped out the window and waddled on to the ice cold grass. But today, I am drenched in thoughts. 

…of the time I lay on a wicker recliner with the cool breeze ruffling my feathers. 

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…of that bright evening, when I stood so close to a lamp, that I could see the wick slowly drinking up the oil. 

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…the sound of the ocean, the green of the coconut tree, and the smell of ginger tea and filter coffee that made mornings official. 

These days, the dreams I have are of steaming hot idlis, rolled-up sweet paans, and pots of payasam (sweet porridge). In the deep quiet here, I imagine walking along the street-side stalls of Chennai, soaking in the smell of camphor and incense sticks, the sound of temple bells, and the feel of salty air from the sea.

Is there a cure for a holiday hangover? Maybe a plate of paneer tikka would help.

D