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A different kind of perspective

A Different Kind of Perspective


Aarush Joshi


    Mowgli missed the jungle. He wanted back Baloo and his honey, Bagheera and his protectiveness, and even Kaa, just a bit for the last one. He didn’t want to leave. He didn’t want to go to a strange place called “America,” where the trees were barely tress and more like sticks with leaves and yucky stuff. He certainly didn’t want to go an endlessly confusing thing called “school.” But he had to. 

    His uncle drove him to his “school,” in a shiny and fearsome thing called a “car.” Mowgli thought that bulls and wolves were fast, but this was an entirely new level. And it barely got tired, which was remarkable. It drank some sinister black liquid that Mowgli had absolutely no intention of ever touching.

    Anyhow, then his uncle said goodbye and gave Mowgli his bag, in which you were to put stuff in. Interesting. There was a sign in front of the “school” Mowgli was going to, which said Chaboya Middle School. Mowgli didn’t know what a “Chaboya” was, but it sure didn’t sound like the thing you might do to have fun. He walked inside and instantly got swarmed like bees might do to you if you had accidentally stolen all their honey. So many boys and girls! 

There were a dozen trees all over the inside of the campus, a word Mowgli had recently learned. Now, these were real trees! Mowgli decided that if he climbed one, he would have a much better viewpoint. He shoved his way through the crowd, hesitant at first, and when no one seemed to mind, he got a bit more vigorous. He finally broke out of the stream of children, a strange but fun word to say. He slung the bag off his shoulders and began to climb. Memories set in, and he ignored the fact that dozens were watching him climb the tree like it was a ladder. He forgot he was thousands of miles from home. He only focused on the tree, leaping from branch to branch. 

When he finally popped up, he heard a massive cheer. He looked down and saw hundreds of kids now watching. Some hot shots were attempting to do the same as him, and all of them failed. One even ruined a $50 shirt. Some shouted for him to “Climb down before the teachers get here!”, and others shrieked, “That guy is EPIC!”, and yet others grumbled, “Mom’s gonna freak when she sees my shirt.” Mowgli ignored them for a minute, drinking in his surroundings. When he had decided that it was possible to get out from several directions and that he was not trapped here, he slid down. Remarkably, his shirt and shorts didn’t even have a speck of grime on them. He was going to have to reserve judgment on these trees. 

The first-period bell rang, and Mowgli rushed to his first class; Science. He walked in the class and was greeted with a massive picture of Shere Khan. Mowgli jumped back, whacking a half dozen of the snobby hot shots who’d tried to imitate him. One shouted,

“Oi, smelly one! Watch it!” Mowgli didn’t know too much English at this point, but he knew an insult and a threat to his dominance when he saw one. He whipped around and glared so fierce that even Kaa would be proud. The boys quavered under his deadly gaze, and each desperately hoped they had somewhere else to be. “We’ll just be going then,” the one who had insulted Mowgli mumbled. They speedily shuffled off to bother someone less volatile. 

Now that Mowgli was left in peace, he examined his deceased nemesis. He later decided that it was much more dangerous than Shere Khan. It was much larger, more muscular, and with a look that seemed to see, ‘Scram before I rip you up to feed to the vultures.’ Mowgli stepped out of the furious gaze on its face and went inside his Science Class. The teacher was a wizened old man who looked 20 years too old to be working. His name, according to a plaque, was Mr. Endon. 

“Hello, seventh graders! Welcome! During this year, we are going to be learning all about animals, their scientific name, and their tendencies and. . .”  

Mowgli tuned out because this sounded incredibly boring. He practically snored like Baloo! He was just dreaming about spending time with his wolf brother and family when his dream stopped. 

Mr. Endon’s mind-numbing monologue had halted, and Mowgli snapped awake. It was the end of the period; the lecture had lasted the whole hour! He slung his backpack, and hustled off to the second period, Language Arts. He felt a vague sense of disappointment, the dream had been so great.

There, the teacher was much better. Her name was Mrs. Fyre, an unusual name, as it sounded exactly like “fire,” which was the official name for the Red Flower. She had a massive library collection. Mowgli had learned a few weeks ago what books were, and he hated the idea. Why read a “book” full of ideas when the person who wrote it could just tell its story? Mowgli was a people person. Or animals person. Anyways, apparently a library gave out free books, and you had to return them. Weird.

But nevertheless, he went and checked out a book called “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” Mowgli didn’t know who “Harry Potter” was, or what a Sorcerer’s Stone, but he resolved to read it. He found out that Harry Potter was a boy whose parents were killed by an evil villain. But somehow, the villain could not kill him and resolved to hunt him down. Hey, that’s kind of like me, Mowgli thought. But before he could ponder this exciting development, the 2nd-period bell rang, and it was time for Break. 

He got out of the classroom and rummaged through his bag for some Cheetos. He had tried them when he moved to California as an intended citizen, (though Mowgli’s heart would always lie in the Jungle), and now he was addicted. One time he actually stole all of his uncle’s Cheetos (his uncle liked them too) and stashed them up an extremely tall tree in his uncle’s backyard. Over the next month, he and all of his animal friends feasted like kings. The break was for 10 minutes, so he stood next to his classroom for the 3rd period, Advanced Math, and munched on cheesy goodness. 

Mowgli had learned math in the jungle, but his uncle taught him to incorporate in subjects. For example, Mowgli knew that 10 trees multiplied by 0 trees was 0 trees. He knew 10 trees divided by 0 trees was indefinite. He knew that three elephants added by 9087657 elephants was… well, maybe give him some time for the last one. But Mowgli did understand math, and apparently was proficient enough to get into Advanced Math. 

Finally, the break was over, and Mowgli was the first to get into math class. The teacher’s name was Mrs. Johnson, and she was a bit funny, but then she sprang a pop quiz. That, apparently, was a surprise test, and Mowgli didn’t like either the concept or the actual thing. He got through most of them, but then there were others he didn’t get much. On those, he just wrote, ‘My nemesis, Shere Khan, ate the question.’ Other than that, he did pretty well, understanding a lot of the questions before they had even finished. That was mostly since the problems came from a math book of almost unanimous hatred from both students and teachers alike. The math book would take an entire page just for one question. The writers thought it was enjoyable. The students thought it was insane and a waste of time, energy, ink, and paper. Mostly time and energy.

Mowgli finished fast, and went back to reading “Harry Potter.” It was very entertaining, and Mowgli burst out laughing when he read the part when Hagrid tried to turn Dudley into a pig and failed because “he was already too much like a pig.” All the jealous and envious eyes of the people who hadn’t finished glared at him, and he quickly shut up.  Just before he got to Harry being sorting (no troll), the bell rang, and he ran off to Social Studies.

Now, this was the subject Mowgli feared. He hadn’t the clue why history was even a subject. Maybe an optional, low key class, but a significant topic with thousands of textbooks and trillions of books on it? No siree. He made his way to Social Studies, where the teacher was a man named Mr. Marshall, who had a very nice beard, and whose eyes glinted with faint amusement. He gave off charismatic energy that made Mowgli compelled to listen to everything he said. He started off with introducing himself and what they would be studying, which had to be told, sounded a lot better than Mowgli had feared. But before all the good stuff, they were stuck with geography. This was precisely as mind-numbing, foolish, useless as Mowgli had concerned. He memorized precisely three seas, two deserts, four rivers, zero mountains, zero lakes, and two countries by the time the period. Not sorry for a person who lived in a jungle his entire life. Mr. Marshall dismissed them with these parting words, 

“Make sure you prepare well for your geography test!” Great. More tests. 

Now it was finally lunch! Mowgli rummaged through his backpack and triumphantly held out a pizza. Now, this was one of the miracles of America that Mowgli accepted without conflict. He adored pizza. The subtle tangs of basil on your tongue, the melting delish of cheese, the simmering sauce of the vegetable-that-is-a-fruit. He preferred his pizza with pineapples, olives, and onions. Somehow, it was still hot, and Mowgli took a slice between his teeth, stuffed the rest back in his lunch box, basically a bag in a bag, and climbed up a tree. Once at the tree top, unnoticed this time, he dined on pizza like a king, tossing olives at birds, giving pineapples to squirrels, and giving an entire slice of pizza to an apparently starving family of tree rats. Between the 50 odd of them, they finished off the whole pizza, a remarkable feat, as most couldn’t eat cheese. Mowgli sat on that tree the entire lunch period, in which time he learned of several spectacularly rude dogs, the fact that birds could stand on those electricity lines and not get fried to a crisp, and that one student below had almost knocked down one of them with a donut. He also scored thirteen paper clips, two silver amulets, and one earring from passing ravens. By the time the bell rang, Mowgli’s net value had gone up by 25%. He also came down a smarter boy. Talking to the unnoticed observers of above will do that to you. 

His next period was Physical Education, where, according to the ravens, the only education you got was that the teachers had no mercy whatsoever when it came to this education. It was more like Physical Overzealous Torture, according to them. The teacher, Mr. Franza, was a grim man who had at least four Nike shoes (they were costly, according to a sparrow), and was never seen using them for anything but walking. He immediately made them run a mile. This consisted of four laps around a hot sand track that provided no shade whatsoever. 

When the whistle blew, Mowgli took off. He imagined that a dozen Shere Khans were pursuing, and he took the lead. He passed the first lap with zero effort visible. The others fell behind, grains of sand on a sand track, just a speck in the universe of Mowgli’s mind. When he ran, he ran for all that had loved him, protected him, and fought for him. His face was stuck in an expression of pain, and his mouth moved, but no sound came. He was the wind, and the wind had to be quiet for a while. He didn’t notice the sand to blazing behind him. He didn’t see all of the shouts of frustration as he put entire laps ahead of the runner-ups. He only concentrated on the running. It took him 6: 39 minutes to finish. Mr. Franza looked baffled but sent him to have some water in spite of his shock. That raggedly, slightly handsome boy, had just overtaken boys who would grow to be Olympians.

When the bell rang, Mowgli had almost recovered. The funny thing is, the more effort you put in something, the more tired you get, but at the same time, the more time you have to recover. Mowgli didn’t run to class this time. He was too tired. He walked all the way to chess class, the most exciting class of the day. 

The teacher here was an old man named Mr. Gemellos, whose body had deteriorated, but his intelligence and humor had not. He explained that this would be Chess class, where they would learn about some great players, moves, positions, and games. Hopefully, they would all come out better players. Mowgli didn’t understand the pieces, and how they moved, so he asked that. Mr. G, as he insisted they call him, was all too happy to explain. He had read Mowgli’s file and knew that Mowgli would understand the animal analogy. 

“Well, it goes like this. First, there are pawns. They’re like wolf cubs; not so dangerous in the beginning, but terrifying in the end. There are eight of them. They can move one step at a time but only capture diagonally. They cannot capture a piece in front of them. In the beginning, if a pawn has not moved, they can leap, and move two steps. I’ll teach more about them and their importance later. Any questions?” Mowgli didn’t have any.

“Then there are bishops. These guys are like snakes. They can be motionless for ages, and then strike, and boom! You’re dead. They can move all the way diagonally. They cannot move vertically or horizontally. Got it?” Mr. G. didn’t pause for Mowgli to say, yes sir, or not a bit. Mowgli, to be honest, was still deciding for himself. 

“After that, there are Knights. These pieces are horses.” Fortunately, Mowgli knew what a horse was, or this would be very confusing. “These move in an L shape, and can actually leap over pieces, just like a horse can leap over humans. They are the only pieces that can do so.” Mr. G. now picked up a strange looking castle piece.

“Right, now there are Rooks. Rooks are like elephants because they can smash into any piece that is vertical or horizontal to it. And once a Rook gets its eye on a piece, there’s no stopping. Thanks to their vertical and horizontal powers, they can get everywhere on the board.”

“This is the combo of the Rook and Bishop, so basically an elephant and viper in one. It’s called the Queen, and it can go diagonally, vertically, and horizontally. It’s the most powerful piece. Think of it as an Alpha Wolf. Crossing its path is doom.” Here Mr. G. took several deep breaths and thought how to describe the King.

“This is the King. It can go one step anywhere. But you can stop it from moving on certain squares or force it to move, by placing a piece so that if the King stayed in its spot, you could take it with that piece. This is called ‘check.’ But the King can’t be taken. If it has no squares to go to, cannot block a check, and can’t take the piece, it is called ‘checkmate.’ Then the games over, no matter who had what. So I guess the King is a feeble tiger, the leader, but not the strongest.” By this point, the bell had rung, and most of the class had bolted. Mowgli was about to as well, but Mr. G. stopped him. 

“Hey, you, Mowgli! Come over here,” he shouted over the din of excited children. Mowgli froze and walked over to Mr. G. “Listen, I don’t want you to think that I’m playing favorites or anything, but here’s the deal. When I was talking to you about the pieces, all the others kids fiddled around, smacked each other, or secretly played games. But you, you, looked me right in the eye. And in that eye, I saw hidden strength. A powerful will. When I looked into your eyes, I saw sparks. And I want to help you nurture that into a great bonfire. I believe you can do great things. So accept this gift from me as something to help you along the way, and as a token of my appreciation.” He handed a gleaming white box to Mowgli. Mowgli just stood there, not sure if he was supposed to open it. “Well, open it already!”, Mr. G. prodded. Mowgli gratefully opened it and put in his hand to get out whatever it was in there. His hand came out with a gleaming white and black chess board. There were two long boxes, with lids. He took them out and realized they were the chess pieces. The white pieces were gleaming icicle white, with the eyes of the White Knights streaked a beautiful frosty blue. The White King’s cross shimmered platinum and silver. The black pieces were onyx black, and they had golden Knight eyes, and a golden cross on the King’s head. It was the most beautiful gift Mowgli had ever received. 

“Thank you,” he whispered. “Oh, thank you.” Mr. G. just chuckled and said, 

“No problem. Now, you practice with them.”

“I will, I promise,” whispered Mowli reverently.

“Goodbye Mowgli,” Mr. G. calmly said.

“Bye!”, Mowgli excitedly waved. 

He made his way back home, after a day of lectures, books, math problems, maps, miles, and horses. What a day, Mowgli thought to himself. What a day.  

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