91.66% Angreji - The Pursuit of Freedom / Chapter 11: Misty-eyed

Chapter 11: Misty-eyed

The school was a large enough place for Devdutt to lose himself at. Of course, it was nowhere near as large as his palace back home, but enough to house a small army. Devdutt was impressed with the size, design and location of the campus. It had overwhelmed him on his first day, but he had got used to being there, among the enormous buildings, trees and mountains.

On his third day there, Devdutt had nearly stepped out of the campus trying to find his way to the prayer hall, had it not been for a rather animated sprint by the school nurse to stop and redirect him. As he was still learning to read, the buildings had all looked the same to him despite bearing names, painted on their entrances in bold white lettering.

The school campus was a beautiful place, well-planned and built to utilise every square inch of the land. Geographically, it was situated at a height greater than that of Makrai. The climatic conditions there were unlike anything Devdutt had experienced before. The air was thin, and it was the kind of environment that required time to get accustomed to.

Devdutt vividly remembered the way he had felt on the morning of his arrival into this strange new town. He was weary from the travel and was still upset about being sent away from his home, his kingdom and all the people he loved. He had tried to calm himself down with some breathing exercises, but he had struggled to do so. He had felt like his chest was suddenly on fire as he fought to breathe normally. His lungs had felt like they were inhaling blocks of air instead of a stream. Despite noticing the change in his breathing pattern while boarding the carriage to school, he had chosen to attribute the heaviness in his chest to his own grief and perhaps lack of sleep, then an obvious change in surroundings. He was naive about everything - geographical locations, climate, change in physical functions at different locations, everything that was not as it was within the walls of the palace. Devdutt had been living inside a bubble ever since the day of the King's decision of sending him to a white school. He had prayed and prayed to his Lord Hanuman every night for things to change, but his father had not budged.

It was a cold and damp day when Devdutt first set foot on the white school's campus. He remembered seeing mist hanging low and blurring the buildings straight ahead, slowly spreading over to the sides and engulfing all corners of the school. He had heard of dense mist concealing beautiful treasures of the land, in stories that Dai Ma would tell him at bedtime. But this was the first time that he had seen such a thing right before his eyes. It was magical! He had felt goose bumps pop and spread across his body, underneath his shirt. He remembered pulling his shawl tightly and wrapping himself into a tight little bundle to keep the chill out.

Devdutt had liked this seemingly mysterious thing that had dropped from the sky. It moved and covered sturdy, concrete structures, tuning them out of the picture as per its whimsy. Earlier that day, he had noticed mist coming out of his nose and mouth as he inhaled and exhaled and had wondered what kind of trick nature was playing on him. It had amused and distracted him for a while as he had fogged the window of the carriage again and again. He had also scribbled his name in English, using his index finger.

The views of the white school's campus and its surroundings were unlike anything Devdutt had seen before. He recalled the moment he had seen it for the first time. His carriage ride had been slow and had taken quite a while to reach the school as it had rained a little on the previous evening. The muddy, uneven roads had turned to pools of slush, splashing brown water and tracking mud on to the wheels and the undersides of the carriage. The horses' tails were muddy too and Devdutt had watched them sway and shake away the mud and dirty water. As they had trotted up to the large iron gate, Devdutt had drawn a big breath to lessen the anxiety he'd begun to feel. He had exhaled noisily just as they'd crossed into the school premises.

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At first sight, the school had seemed to him like a hidden paradise - a land where fairies seemed to live. There were lawns with benches for students to sit and study in the lap of nature. There were plenty of trees that were meant to form a protective ring around the campus and create a clear sense of boundary between the school and the town. The school had the town's only cricket ground that doubled as a stadium for miscellaneous forms of athletic activities. There was also a greenhouse on campus to help students learn about the flora and fauna of the region, that Devdutt was then unaware of. But most importantly, the school was the only educational institution in the country with a mountain range as a splendorous backdrop to its campus.

As the horses pulled the carriage forward, Devdutt could see very little of his surroundings. The rolling mist was making it harder for him to peek at the different sections of the campus. For a fleeting moment, his thoughts sailed back to the day his father had broken the news of sending him to school, in the presence of that nasty-looking officer. Thinking back on the King's decision, Devdutt felt like his father's senses may have been obscured by a fog of some sort.

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