Edited By: Ananya Khandelwal (UG21)
A low growl descends upon the calm morning. I dismiss it for the hunger pangs in my stomach on a cold Ashokan morning, but the growl turns into a steady rumble, louder and louder it creeps upon me and I instantly curl out of my blanket and get up. It can’t be my stomach for sure, unless my stomach has an amplifier attached to it. I hear the insidious sound seeping from the gaps of my window and lo and behold, right outside my glass paned window is Smaug – the powerful and fearsome dragon of Smoggypat. We stare into each other’s eyes, mine wide open with awe and fear and his, reptilian-like, reflecting his polluted world. Smaug whirls about outside my window, billowing dust and smoke from his mouth and nostrils and slowly circles away to find another spot to conquer. I feel paralysed, a feeling of dread building inside me because a voice tells me there is turmoil waiting to unfold on campus. Smaug, the dragon of Smoggypat. Digital image on Turbosquid.
Within an hour of waking up, our college mail is flooded with the voices of panic-stricken students who are all victims of Smaug. In entreating and anxious voices, they write that their eyes, chest, lungs and bodies are petrified, tired and weak. Smaug has invaded their bodies and wreaked havoc! By this time, Ashoka is filled with the trails of the dragon and the choice is between fight or flight. To fight, volunteer sign up-sheets are floated to interview people and find those willing to battle it out with Smaug. There is a frantic search among the students for a “Bilbo Baggins” and “Bard the Bowman” to show up. We receive a message that Ashoka is captured and classes are suspended in light of the danger posed to the residents – the beginning of a war! Preparations are also made for flight, with students escaping into the embrace of ‘Himalaya the White’, pristine and untainted by the works of mighty Smaug.
A Smauggy city. Photo by Clement Souchet on Unsplash
Suddenly, Smaug pauses mid-way, taking a break from terrorising us. He closes his eyes which is a sign that he has received an important and urgent message. Some students and members from the administration are emboldened by Bilbo, an activist and soldier in Delhi, who had waged a similar battle with Smaug and turned out victorious. The group approaches Smaug and ask him why the majestic and unconquerable dragon has stopped his show of strength. The dragon opens its eyes and gazes into the horizon, where stubble burning smoke is circling towards the sky, where cars are leaving behind black exhaust fumes, where the Diwali crackers are bursting into a cloud of pollutants and his eyes fill with anger. His rivals are responsible for these activities and how dare they challenge his might! He already feels weak from expending excess energy to break into the impenetrable (or so I wish) masks over people’s mouth and nose. He wishes to preserve any ounce of energy left in him to fight his rival dragons. He gives an eerie look, conveying that as long as we reside in Smoggypat we are not free from his clutches. Smaug ascends higher into the sky and satisfied at his mastery in engulfing Ashoka with his scent, he smirks and flies to fight his rivals.
Pollution by Smaug’s rivals. Photo by Bence Balla-Schottner on Unsplash
Armed with inhalers, air-purifiers, citrus fruits and masks, Ashokans are ready to face Smaug if he shows up again. But for now, we all need to rejuvenate and escape the smog that pervades every nook and corner of campus and we head towards ‘Himalaya the white’ who will bring our souls back to life from the hazy embrace of Smaug.
The Pristine Himalayas. Photo by Kanishka Jeewantha on Unsplash