to the Mahatma
The fact that I recollect nothing more of those days than
having learnt, in company with other boys, to call our
teacher all kinds of names, would strongly suggest that
my intellect must have bee sluggish and my memory raw.
—Mohandas K. Gandhi, recalling his
childhood, in his autobiography, 1957
What makes someone great? What happens in the life of a person to indicate that, one day, that person will do great things, far beyond what average men or women have ever done? More important, who were the people and what were the events in Gandhi's youth that played a role in molding him into what his people came to lovingly call him the Mahatma, or great soul?
Gandhi's was not an extraordinary upbringing. He was in many ways a typical boy. He was not very religious; he was a borderline atheist for much of his youth. Nor was he very studious; he was an average student of less than impressive intellect. As a small, almost enfeebled boy, he did not take well to athletics either, although as a young law student and even as the elderly Mahatma, he would display remarkable strength and stamina by walking miles each day.
By his own reckoning, Gandhi was an unremarkable boy with no more than average intelligence. His early experiences do not really set him apart from others, nor do they give us much of an inkling of the man he would become. Nevertheless, we must explore some singular events that helped to shape Gandhi. Although we