Salman Khan, the superstar of today, was like any kid next door in his early days. Salman’s close relatives reveal how he would dread swimming as a child. One day his Badi Ammi tied Salman to a rope and tossed him into the neighbourhood well. That was his first lesson in swimming.

Most of Salman’s childhood was spent in Mumbai. Nevertheless, Indore was his favourite place when he was studying at Scindia Boarding School in Gwalior. Salman’s uncle Naeem Khan still remembers how his nephew once declined a school trip so that he could have fun with his friends and cousins in Indore. In Naeem Khan’s words:

He was around ten or twelve years old then. His school had organized a trip to Mandav. Salman cajoled one of his teachers and told him that he wanted to meet his uncle before the trip. The teacher was suspicious and accompanied Salman to Indore. But the teacher had to go back once Salman made it clear that he was not going to go for the trip. I dialled his family to tell them that Salman had come here and he was not going for the Mandav trip. They bawled at him, but Salman did not go for the trip.

Salman’s brother Arbaaz Khan was his schoolmate at Scindia Boarding School. Salman was in Class VIII while Arbaaz was in Class VI; both studied there for two years. Salman was in Ranoji House while Arbaaz represented Shivaji House. They left the school in 1979 and joined Mumbai’s St. Stanislaus Convent High School.

Salman hopped between many schools, but Indore remained a part of his life. He was in the city for every summer holiday. At times, he loved to play with the slingshot. He would ride a bicycle on the roads of Indore for hours during the afternoons. Indore also taught him how to hold the reins of a horse cart. He passed his days in merrymaking, and the evenings sometimes ended in a madhushala—that’s what sugar cane juice parlours were called in those days in Indore.

Salman’s aunt Sufiya Khan tells us about his fondness for good food:

Salman has always liked good food. He would often say, ‘Aunt, make kheer for me, make kebabs for me.’ Earlier the house had a huge compound with many trees. He loved to pluck the fruits and eat them. He would never let a bottle of sherbet last for long in the house. A whole bunch of children used to gather at our home. They would eat and play together. The children would eat fruits, climb the trees and ride bicycle in the compound.

‘He never listened to anyone’

Salman’s uncle Naeem Khan says that Salman was different from the other kids—naughty and stubborn. He never listened to anyone once he had decided to do something. He had developed an early interest in stunts. At the age of twelve, he could jump up to three metres on wheels. Sometimes he took his bicycle to stony paths, and he could balance it even on stairs.

Cousin Mubin Khan was his playmate. Mubin says he cannot count the number of times they had fallen while attempting the stunts. It would often break the bicycle altogether. But the bruises could never deter them from taking risks.

Mubin also reminisces about Salman’s love for nature. He loved to walk in the woods. Nights spent outdoors were special to him. Salman was the only one in the group who loved to drive his jeep on dirt roads.

Life in the wild has always enchanted Salman. He loves remote villages, relishing bullock-cart rides and milking cows and buffaloes; he would then gulp down the raw milk…

All of Salman’s relatives recount that Salman liked playing more than academics. This was one of the reasons why Salim Khan sent him away to Scindia Boarding School in Gwalior. Counted among the top four schools in the country, it was originally built for the education of royal pupils.

But even such a high-profile campus could not motivate Salman’s heart and soul towards studies. At last, Salim Khan had to take him back to Mumbai, to study at St. Stanislaus Convent High School.

Naeem Khan shared a story about Salman leaving the Scindia school: This school is in the upper part of Gwalior Fort. Students are not allowed to come down. It was nothing short of a jail for Salman, who was used to frolicking in Mumbai. Here, the life was confined to school, playground and hostel. Salman threw all kinds of tantrums to coax his parents to get him out. Arbaaz even threatened in one of his letters that he would jump from the fort wall if not called back from the boarding. It made his family relent.

Bodybuilding started for Salman right from his Indore days. He was skinny as a child, but developed a flair for exercises by watching his relatives work out. Later, this turned into such a passion that his body became the talk of India. Salman never stopped visiting the gym at Christian College whenever he was in Indore. Mubin Khan was his gym-mate for some time. He remembers that they would go to the Aggarwal sweet shop at Nasiha Chowk and gorge themselves on milk and jalebis after every session of exercise. Mubin Khan’s eyes sparkle when he talks about his childhood. ‘Salman would often playfully tease girls and play pranks with them. But it was all in good fun.’

Even Salman’s acting style bears an imprint of his Indore days. Matin Khan, another cousin, says he is still the same child on the screen. He once asked Salman how he acts. ‘There is nothing of that sort. Whatever fun I have in real life, I just relive it on-screen. People like me doing this and that’s how I became a star,’ answered Salman.

A prankster at school

St Stanislaus Convent School lies next to Galaxy Apartments. Salman was a hero in co-curricular activities at this school, but always lagged behind his brother Arbaaz in studies. Salman was popular in school, but was often reprimanded for his mischief-making. Salman has said in one of his interviews that he often used to get a beating at school due to the pranks he played. When his parents would come to know that he was punished at school, they would give him the same treatment at home.

But even then, Salman had a heart of gold. Dr Sudhir Chopra was two years senior to him at school. He remembers that once students were asked to take their less well-to-do mates to lunch at home. Dr Sudhir says that Salman was at the forefront of this campaign. ‘Salman went to the principal and asked him to choose seven classmates whom he could take home for lunch. He took those students daily to his home. His family members welcomed them,’ he recalls.

The principal of St. Stanislaus, says Salman, was very strict. He was astonished when Salman scored 68 per cent in the tenth standard. He had hardly expected such a good score from this naughty student. But Salman didn’t really like the principal, saying that he was very happy when he left the school. However, his happiness was short-lived since the same man turned out to be a Father at St. Xavier’s College where Salman went. ‘My son, I am not going to leave you so easily,’ said the Father as soon as he saw Salman in the college campus.

Salman recalls one more story about the principal: ‘I had left my college studies and was on a visit to Spain. When I came to know that the Father was also in Spain, I thought I would meet him. I tried to call him, but he wouldn’t answer. A person was waiting for me on arrival in Spain. He informed me that the Father could not take my call due to illness; and now he was no more, but he had left a message for me. The message was, “My son, I love you very much.” I was in tears when I read those words. He was gone before I could get to know him as a person. He still lives in my memories.’

Excerpted with permission from Being Salman, Jasim Khan, Penguin Random House India. Photo courtesy Naeem Khan.