Mohandas Gandhi, Whom most people know as Mahatma, meaning “Great
Soul,” is one of the most prevalent images in the minds of those who think about great
leaders, in the movement for human rights and non-violence. However, not much is
known about his life as a child and his achievements in the early twentieth century. All
the staging grounds in Gandhi’s stance towards non violence, human rights, and peace
took place in the years leading up to the twentieth century and the first decade after.
Gandhi was born in Porbandar, India on October 2, 1869. His family, which
consisted of two brothers and one sister lived a rather good life.
Karamanchand Gandhi, was a government official for the state of Porbandar. His mother
could neither read nor write, but was very religious and was known to go on extended
fasts. Gandhi’s mother affected her young son at a very young age. In the state that
Gandhi lived there were over two dozen religions. Gandhi learned to accept all of the
different religions at a very young age. Gandhi’s child hood was not very different from
that of a normal child, the only exemption is that Gandhi always felt a sense of
responsibility and duty.
When Gandhi was seven years old his father got a new job as
prime minister of Rajkot. Gandhi continued his education and his life as if nothing had
ever changed, until he was married at the age of thirteen in 1882.
Kastura Makinji was Gandhi’s first wife. They were both the same age, and just
like Gandhi’s’ mother Kastura could not read or write. She was the daughter of a
merchant and like Gandhi lived a rather comfortable life. The two lived apart more than
they did together, spending more time with parents rather than with each other.
his life Gandhi joked that he was a stupidly jealous husband, he said “I must say I was
passionately fond of her. Even at school I used to think of her, and the thought of night
fall and our subsequent meeting was ever haunting me. I have already said that Kasturba
was illiterate. I was very anxious to teach her, but lustful love left me no time (Gold 24).”
Aside from the problems of marriage, Gandhi faced another huge turning point in
his life when his father died. Gandhi respected his father Karamchand Gandhi deeply.
Although Karamchand was hot tempered at times, he had a reputation of having high
integrity. During his dieing days, Gandhi would sit by Karmchands’ bed for hours
nursing after him and massaging his body. During the final hours of Karchands life,
Gandhi left his side to be with his wife. This turned out to be a major regret in Gandhi’s
life. His father died a few minutes after Mahatma left him. His wife was pregnant at that
time and was sleeping in another bed room.
Gandhi said, “I saw that, if animal passion
had not blinded me, I should have been spared the torture of separation from my father
during his last moments. It is a blot I have never been able to efface or forget, and I
always thought that, although, my devotion to my parents knew no bounds I would have
given up anything for it, yet it was weighed and found unpardonable wanting because my
mind was at the same time in the grip of lust (Dalton 147).”
In 1892 Gandhi traveled to South Africa. It turned out to be a major staging point
for his unwavering stance towards non violence and equal rights. Gandhi faced many
hardships and obstacles in Africa. When he arrived in Natal he met with his employer
and a week later was sent, by train, to Pretoria, Transvaal.
This is were his strife began.
Gandhi employer had purchased a first class ticket for his travel, but when a European
passenger saw the little brown skinned Indian sitting in first class he called a railroad
employee to throw the “coolie” out of first class. Even though Gandhi had a valid ticket,
Indians were simply not allowed in first class. Gandhi refused to leave first class and
move to the third class compartment. He was thrown off the train and spent the night at
the station freezing because he was too upset to get his luggage from the stationmaster.
Gandhi’s refusal to leave the first class compartment because of his ethnicity .