When I think of the effects of Don Bosco’s system of Education what comes to my mind first of all is what effects it produced in me. I would like to share one or two instances for your amusement and consideration.
A word in the ear
It was a bright sunny day on the undulating hills of Sonada, Darjeeling. Salesian College, Sonada, rose high on the sloping hill side, scattering the sunbeams across the green valley of tea shrubs. We, the big boys, had rushed down to the playground below with great élan to play a game known as “American war”. It is a simple game having equal number of soldiers on both sides. Their only weapon is a ball. You can shoot the enemy down with all the might you can muster. You can also defend yourself with a ball that is in the possession of your team. When an opponent enters your territory with a ball or without, you can catch him and pin him down and he is declared dead. Thus you can eliminate the soldiers of the opponent with the ball or by just catching him in your territory. As the war goes on the heat of enthusiasm and chivalry grows. Your one desire is to win by eliminating your opponent. Every ball that lands on an opponent brings in shouts of hurrah.
I got possession of the ball and rushed to the defenceless enemy territory, as they were not in possession of their ball. I swung the ball and gave a hard blow to one of my opponents and got back to my team. The blow was a good one and it fell right on his left shoulder. I was elated, for the one who was eliminated was one of the best. I had got rid of a good soldier of the opponents. Hurray!
At the end of the game I rushed back to the College to bathe; for I wanted to be one of the first to reach the bathing room, before someone else occupied it. ‘First come first served’ rule prevailed there. On my heels behind was Bro. Alton Fernandez, the Assistant, in post haste panting to catch up with me. Then while running up the hill he placed his left hand on my shoulder and said: “Was it necessary to throw the ball so hard at Scaria?” It took my breath off as I felt his grip falling off from my shoulder and moving away from me.
While I was having my bath those words started to ring in my ear: was it necessary to throw the ball so hard at Scaria. I went to the study hall; there too I was disturbed by those words like a worm gnawing my brains. When in bed too it came to haunt me. Till I said to myself that I won’t do it again. Then only I could fall into the arms of Morpheus.
That was a word in the ear of which Don Bosco so often recommended in his educational sÀystem. Since I had experienced its mighty power, I used it fairly often, most of the time while playing with the students, with good results. There was no scolding, no threats, and no office to confront the culprit, but only a friendly question or a word. The former, as a matter of fact, produces bitter feelings, irritability, anger and resentment while the latter produces self-reflection and self correction.
Fr. Porcu Mario & his example
I had the fortune to have Rev. Fr. Porcu Mario as my Rector in practical training. He was a rather demanding Rector, but kind to the confreres. He could be seen anywhere and everywhere at any time. Where no one could suspect he would be there. As a matter of fact, the boys had named him ‘Kulai’ (horse). What a bundle of energy and commitment to duty! His presence was a soothing, preventive medicine for everyone. In those days St. Anthony’s College, St. Anthony’s High school, Technical school, a Boarding comprised Don Bosco, Shillong. I had 39 periods in a week to teach in St. Anthony’s Day School and Night School, besides doing the regular assistance in the chapel, refectory, and playground. Having 200 boarding students,(artisans & High School students) and caring for them is no easy task for the fledgling new brothers in practical training. As the boarding, in those days, consisted of Khasi, Garo, Naga, Mizo, Manipuri, Kharbi, Adhivasi boys, ( together with the Tibetan boys sent by the Govt. of India), there was no end of quarrels and fights among them. There was a boy named Nickey (name changed) who used to fight everyday and cause a lot of disturbance. I had to jump into the fray and separate the bullies. This could be in the playground or on the way to the refectory, study or you name any place. Since I had a robust build I could tackle them. But it gave me no peace. Once I ran to the Rector’s office and told Fr.Mario: I am fed up, kindly send Nickey away from the boarding; he is an utter nuisance; gives no peace to anyone. Fr. Mario with his characteristic smile exposing all the 32 teeth, and an impious twinkle in his eye said: so he is difficult, eh? These are the boys who need you and not the good ones. Don Bosco wants these boys to be taken care of. What could I say? And added ‘ In patientia vestra possidebitis animas vestra’. My annoyance and irritation did not subside. But I had to put down my tail and move away submissively like a deflated canine. That was another to be treasured as a Salesian: the good and well-behaved does not need you, but the wayward and the troublesome need your care and love. As a Rector and Principal of schools I remembered that teaching and try to put them into practice and inculcate the same in others.
Fr. Kuriala Chittattukalam sdb, Doomni, Assam