My younger daughter, Aleena was in the tenth standard then. She commuted to her school in a ‘private van’. One evening, at about 3.15pm, my mobile phone rang. The caller was her van driver. Sensing trouble, my heart skipped a beat. ‘Your daughter has not got into the van yet. Other vehicles have all left. What should I do?’ he sounded irritated. The surging adrenaline (the hormone that mediates the body’s flight-fight -fright response to stressful situations) levels within me made its manifestations felt right away.
All I could do was to request him to wait till she got into the van. I juggled with many options. I called him back to request him if he could ask the security man at the school to investigate my daughter’s ‘disappearance’, or to go into the school himself to investigate, with the security guy’s help. Both of which, he said, would not be allowed by the school ‘authorities’. Reaching my daughter over phone was out of question, as mobile phones are banned in schools, thanks to their misuse among students. She could be reached over the school phone, only if the indication for the call convinced the ‘powers-that- be’ of the school. I rang up my daughter’s friend’s home to enquire if she had reached home. To add to the complexity, and more adrenaline rush within me, she hadn’t gone to school that day. Her father, sensing the extreme anxiety in my voice, offered to go to the school to enquire. As minutes passed, the restless van driver made further calls, as to what he should do, which had my adrenals work like rocket booster.
As I waited for the result of the of my daughter’s friend’s father, my mind was busy catastrophizing. Almost all the frightening possibilities my ‘missing’ daughter could have fallen into, from kidnapping, to physical harm, including rape, thanks to the ‘not-so- encouraging’ news in the media these days, ran through my mind. My wife and I decided to leave from work early to go to the school to join the ‘search operations’. Just before leaving, I called the van driver. The phone was answered by my daughter herself, much to my relief, which knew no bounds. (I could sense my pituitary slam the brakes on my adrenals) She told me, the high school students were asked to ‘stay back’ to welcome a MP, known for the gift of his gab, who visited the school to give away an award to the school, and also to listen to his speech! Schooling these days, is all about adrenaline surge and catastrophizing for the parents. As for the students, it is the other hormones that are on the surge, understandably!