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Going around Philly

Standing at the Rocky Steps


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.


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In India, one of the most important festivals is Diwali, also called the Festival of Lights. Given the diversity of the country, there are many versions of why the festival is celebrated. But universally, it just denotes the victory of light over darkness. And this, quite literally. For people decorate their houses with oil lamps and LED lights, and light the sky up with fireworks. Sparklers, ground spinners, fountains, poppers, snakes, rockets…you name it and they have it. The use of fireworks is not just restricted to this festival. Weddings, funerals, a cricket game, or New Year’s eve, the box of fireworks are unpacked. So I waited with bated breath for July 4, to see some stunning pyrotechnics in the sky, here. On the night of the US Independence Day, we drove to Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia, and with the Delaware river and a row of historic boats behind us, we looked up at the spotless sky to see train of bright light glide to a height and explode into stardust. A few couples embraced each other in a warm hug, children jumped in excitement never taking their eyes off of the sky, and a bunch of them shouted ‘USA’ in a patriotic fervor. The display went on for a good 30 minutes, like a rehearsed and well-organized theatrical piece. At the end of it, I would have clapped, almost, but for the flood of people that rushed their way to the exit.