I do not think that I can ever de–link myself from the influence of my formative years spent in the cradle of that whole culture with the Salesian priests and their commitment to the education system. The institution that they ran with caring and a deep sense of values, the grooming I got to grow into the kind of person that I am today. All that is part of the unconscious. Something that I carry wherever I go.
This experience goes with me, colours my vision, influences the way I look at things, at the world, the way I act, react and think. It is part of the collective unconscious, in the bloodstream, in the marrow of my bones.
We have millions in this country who are a product of these missionary schools. I grew up with the saga of Mary and Jesus inside of me. My mother, a Shia Muslim, took me to seven churches, every Friday, the month of Lent.
And I was very happy that I came to know of Jesus and his way of looking at the world at Bosco. That whole dimension that is deep inside me was perhaps imbibed from my days at Bosco. The way of looking at things, celebrating Christmas, after which comes the month of Lent, followed by Easter. In many ways I am a truly Christian boy.
Through all my growing up years I never ever felt that a faith was being forced upon me. There was a clear distinction made between the Catholic boys who had to attend Catechism classes while non–Christians learnt had to attend moral science classes. Christianity was never paraded, never imposed. There was not even the faintest such streak among the priests or teachers. The teachers, too, never put especial emphasis on anything ‘Christian’. This harmful propaganda is petty paranoia on our part.
In any case, if Jesus is injected in my consciousness it is not going to disempower me. There are many highs in Christianity that you can draw from. Jesus as a person had a unique way of looking at things. A life assertive outlook, compassion and conscience, who’s appeal is not limited to Christians alone.
The concept of Santa Claus lives on for my children. It is a fairy tale from which all of us are rudely awakened as life dishes out its offerings, but all of us need to keep the concept alive for the young, for the next generation. We should all play Santa Claus till we are rudely woken up!
Now this is something I inherited from my Christian upbringing. And I am grateful for my mother for having chosen to send me to a missionary school.
I owe my formative years to them. Bosco has contributed to my being what I am and I am thankful for the teachers and fathers for being so caring, tolerant and patient with me. I was a troublesome boy, not easy to handle. I was an anti–power and anti-authority kind of guy. But they showed me tolerance and compassion.
We also, by the way, had the best church built through my school that was completed during my school days. It was, and possibly still is, one of the best churches that we have. The marble for it came from Italy. We had some great and meaningful times in that church; I used to go inside and spend long hours. We used to play on the rocks and stone slabs.
Even though I left school many years ago, over the past 20 years or so, since I became a film maker, I have kept visiting and re–visiting the spot, the Church for shootings.
Now, you only revisit what is pleasurable and memorable and my memories of years at Bosco are nothing but that. That upbringing has also made enormous contribution to me as a person, a creative artist and this lasting impression manifests itself in my films, in my work.