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It was a sense of panic. Like the sound of wild horses galloping towards us in a dusty field that only I could hear.

The first day my daughter boarded a yellow school bus wearing a proper school uniform, I knew I had to quit the office job that took me 50km away from home. The thought in my mind was that I had to hover nearby, be close enough to the school boundary wall.

I realized that I was afraid of school. Something had happened to me in those years and I wasn’t quite sure what it was.

I was surprised at myself. I had expected to feel relief. Our first-born was now old enough to spend 8 hours in a day-boarding school. It should have made it easier for me to be at my workplace. Instead, I felt threatened. I wanted to stay close by. I wanted to be there when she got off the school bus at 4pm.

In my mind, school was some kind of battlefield. A place from where my child might return wounded. A milestone that was meant to be reassuring, had triggered a set of vague fears in my heart.

This year my batchmates from school organized a silver jubilee reunion party. Hundreds of us joined the Facebook page from various locations and began to share the excitement. There were FB group chats and WhatsApp groups. I looked at the bonhomie and joy with which others were planning this event and tried to understand my own feelings.

“Did I go to the same school as these people?" I thought to myself. “What am I still angry about?" This seemed like a good time to get out from the victim position.

I asked myself what my best school memory was. I remembered the richness of learning folk songs in 15 Indian languages. Our school library in the basement with its welcome quietness. Puneet, the school goonda, calling us to a corner in the library one day and making us gasp in awe. Gesturing to us to keep mum, he pulled up his white trousers slightly and rolled down his school socks to show us the gleam of a folded knife. Wow, a weapon in school! The thrill of smashed windowpanes on the last day in school as boys burst powerful crackers inside their classrooms and escaped to freedom.

I began to remember our teachers and the random acts of love that have stayed with me.

In Class XII, Mrs Ishwaran had called me out in a free period and asked me what I wanted to do in life.

“I want to do something with my hands," I had said at 17, looking at both my palms. My right arm was still recovering from multiple fractures and nerve damage from a freak accident.

That line comes back to me often. “I want to heal my hands," I was saying that day. “I want to create." There was something in the way Mrs Ishwaran had asked me that question that brought out the answer from deep inside me.

Mrs Shishta, our biology teacher, would hold my palms and say, “Surgeon’s hands, these are surgeon’s hands."

You will heal, she was saying to me. I believe in you.

On the day of our annual school picnic, some students began to entertain all of us with their impersonations of teachers. Our English teacher Deepa Raghavan volunteered to mimic one of the students and then proceeded to talk like me.

She pursed her lips and mumbled all her words, then looked at me and said, “You have so much to say, but you speak like you are afraid of what will come out!"

I was embarrassed. Clearly, I haven’t forgotten about it all my life. The next year, I was part of the school play at our annual day function. The play was called Us And Them and my primary dialogue was an ear-piercing scream I let out in the centre of the stage, perched on top of a human scaffolding, close to the climax of the play. My voice resounded in the school grounds and through the audience on the night of the performance.

When I met Deepa for the first time after school, she was standing in my office corridor. It was her daughter’s first day at work in the news broadcast company I worked in. After years of not belonging anywhere, for the first time in my life I had begun to belong to a place where I felt nurtured.

I met Deepa like a confident adult. I welcomed her, gushed about how she looked just the same and promised to look out for Neha, her daughter. I didn’t speak with my lips pursed any more. I had found my voice.

Our relationship to our family, community, institutions and workplaces is defined by how people in positions of power exercise their authority. Often we forget how dynamic these relationships are. We grow up and acquire skills that give us the power to change these equations. We can learn to accept nurturance and confront abuse.

Look at your palms now and remember what it is that you wanted to create with them.

Natasha Badhwar is a media trainer, entrepreneur and mother of three. She writes a fortnightly column on family and relationships.

Read Natasha’s previous Lounge columns here.

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