Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Scenes of Philadelphia

National Treasure (the movie, the first one, which was shot in Philadelphia and DC) and the John Adams miniseries on HBO, based on the book by David McCullough, both turned out to be pretty popular in our house. If you have the time and inclination, the John Adams series is worth watching, not least for the acting. Paul Giamatti (as John Adams), Laura Linney (as Abigail Adams, the wife and mother of American Presidents), Stephen Dillane (as Thomas Jefferson) and Tom Wilkinson (as Ben Franklin) are brilliant.

We drove up to Philadelphia, where the idea of America took root, a couple of weekends ago. It's a pleasant enough drive up from DC. Philadelphia is a great city to live in, visit or even just drive through. It's lovely on many levels - the people are nice and friendly, the streets are made for walking, the buildings are history unto themselves, the food is great.

The city was buzzing. Both Obama and Palin happened to be campaigning or doing events during that time.

It was fun to go back, more than 16 years after I first lived there briefly, to see things I had not had the time (or the awareness of) to see and to see familiar places through C's eyes. We mostly spent the two days hanging out in the city center, walked up to the waterfront (where I'd been to a Max Roach concert many years ago with some friends; on the walk back to the apartment, they had sung the theme song from Married With Children at the top of their lungs while I looked on bemusedly - back then I had no idea what it was), saw Liberty Bell and took a tour of Independence Hall.

Liberty Bell

Independence Hall

Inside the courtyard of Independence Hall

The room in which the Continental Congress met and deliberated.

The chair is the only original item remaining from the days of the Revolutionary War

For a bit of flashback, here's a part of an essay about my first days in Philadelphia:

This past 13th marked 13 years since the day I arrived in the US - with two huge suitcases, one handbag and one really thick jacket my mom and I bought from a pavement seller in the Jayanagar 4th block shopping complex.

The suitcases contained everything I would need and all that I could call my own during my first few months in the US - rasam powder, sambar powder, molaga pudi, and assorted snacks and pickles, all of my favorite clothes plus a few new ones purchased in bouts of frenzied shopping as the d-day arrived, money orders for school, passport, I-20, and all the collective hopes, aspirations and fears of a family sending their girl off to a foreign land thousands of miles away.

My parents and brother traveled with me from Bangalore to Bombay to see me off on the Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt. It was an ungodly hour but the airport was bathed in undying light, alive, busy, buzzing with people trying to manage farewells and immigration forms and carts and unwieldy suitcases and sleepy children and bubbling emotions all at once. As I turned to wave a final goodbye, I saw the pinched, drawn faces of my parents and brother through suddenly hot, stinging eyes. The fact that I was going and going alone did not sink in until I passed immigration and faced the long, nearly-empty passage to the Lufthansa gate.


I hated Philadelphia those first few weeks.

Everything seemed starker, darker. I was alone most of the time - on the way to school, at school, while figuring out what classes to take, at the bank. The days were getting shorter and colder and all my classes were at night.

The friends I was staying with were very nice and always made sure I ate when I was home, but they had their own lives, their own personal crises and their own inside jokes (one of the girls was a big Oprah fan and the other girls used to tease her about it. The first time I heard them teasing her, I thought, wow! she must really love the opera to want to watch it on TV everyday!).

The entire post is here.

1 comment:

Chitra said...

8th cross Malleshwaram? Sighh! I miss it too.