Editorial: Talent, Art & Culture

You can’t miss the banner announcing the Creativity Workshops as you enter the Matunga Campus. This talent development programme, initiated by Peter Gonsalves well over a decade ago, has grown to be the most popular service offered by Tejprasarini. Eager youngsters, with determination written large across their faces, excitedly troop into the campus and passionately immerse themselves into the music, dance, acting and other classes. Come the summer vacations and these workshops are brimming with young people happily developing their talents. A great way to spend the holidays!

And what about us Salesians? Could we also not set aside some time during the holiday season to brush up our own talents?

Down the years, certain talents or skills were considered to be of great value in Salesian life—they were in fact the defining elements of our culture. Today, unfortunately, these skills are on the brink of extinction and in some cases have even totally disappeared from our lives.

Take music for example. Music has grown to be a massive industry the world over, with youngsters being its chief clientele. And not only are youth consumers of music, they are also the crafters and creators of it. I am overawed by the children who often give performances here in our city, finding their way with grace and ease through complex Bach and Beethoven compositions. So why aren’t we attaining similar standards of perfection? Why aren’t we producing Isaac Sterns and Arthur Rubinsteins from among our Salesians? No, I don’t buy the argument that it is sufficient for us to know just enough music to keep the kids entertained—to strum the guitar at a picnic or to accompany the singing in church. That is not an exhibition of our modesty; it is but an excuse for our mediocrity. It is time we get our musically talented young Salesians to work their way through Trinity College examinations and emerge as maestros in the musical arena.

And the art of writing. I recall Fr Arokiam, our Regional, at a recent meeting talking about the power of the novel and its influence on the thinking and behaviour of people. We Salesians should consider writing novels if we want to reach a large audience, he suggested. Certainly a ‘novel’ idea! But good writing doesn’t just happen—it is an art that needs to be painstakingly perfected. The free moments that the holidays afford us would be an excellent time to put pen to paper and embark on our literary pursuits. And yes, we live in fortunate times when we don’t have to chase publishers—it is enough to launch your own blog and post your works there. And if we work hard and long, we will certainly have a Rohinton Mistry or an Amitav Ghosh rising from our ranks.

Reviving these ‘lost arts’ will not only keep alive the ‘Salesian culture’ but also enable us to be ‘cultured Salesians’. I have always admired the refinement and grace of the Parsees. Undoubtedly their elegance comes from their prolonged exposure to the arts. Immersing ourselves in music, theatre, literature and the other arts will definitely have a similar refining effect on our personalities.

Cultivating our talents, mastering the skills, growing into cultured persons—now that is more than a holiday agenda, but the holidays are the best time to begin.

Savio Silveira sdb

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