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.



The Lights Fest

We were a little apprehensive before we reached Kenneth Square in Pennsylvania for The Lights Fest. Widely advertised on social media platforms, with pictures of people holding beautiful white paper lanterns – a warm glow from the fire lighting up their faces – we were sold on the idea of participating in it. So we booked our tickets almost two months in advance, but never received a confirmation, a fact that we failed to check till a day before the festival itself. Now, there were news in a few sites that the festival was a scam. A little tensed, we took our chance and wrote to the official email id of the fest that we would require our tickets (thankfully, I had the order number). In no time they got back to us with our tickets. It was no scam after all. We breathed a sigh of relief. The next day, at about 5 pm we started to what was a wide wide green field dotted with thousands and thousands of people. Some laying on their beach spreads, some others, under beach umbrellas, some even under proper full fledged tents. The spot buzzed with activity, with children playing around with their plastic helicopters, and adults patiently waiting in long queues before the waffle stall. And when the sky turned black, we were asked to let our lanterns free – all at the same time. “At the end of this countdown,” the anchor on the makeshift stage, announced. So we lit our lanterns, and let them drift into the black sky. Hundreds of them floating like a sea of stars. All our apprehensions flew away with them. This was one of the most beautiful events we ever attended.

My article about The Lights Fest was published in the media this week. Please find the link here.

Here are some photos from the fest.

This was the sight at 4 pm. As the sun dipped the crowd increased, as the ticky torches lit the aisles a warm yellow

We were encourage to write/ sketch on our lanterns. So I sketched the couple that was sitting right in front of us. 

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Just a few more hours to go.

The gang that we went with.

The lanterns finally in the sky. It was, believe me, quite a sight.


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.