The Story of Mahatma Gandhi And Where It All Began: ‘Junior Lives: Mahatma Gandhi’ — An Excerpt

Mahatma Gandhi, lovingly called Gandhiji and the Father of the Nation, has been remembered by the entire world for his honest, non-violent methods of leading a nation to independence.

In Sonia Mehta’s ‘Junior Lives: Mahatma Gandhi’, the author explores the life of Gandhiji from his childhood and shows us how he became the leader that he is today.

Here’s a short excerpt from the book.

The thirteen-year-old lad was impatient.  He wanted to get back to his friends, who were having a great time playing outdoors. But here he was—stuck indoors, made to dress up in clothes that were icky and uncomfortable.

‘Can I go now?’ he asked his mother, trying to shrug off the elaborate outfit she was trying to get him to wear.

‘No, Mohan,’ she replied. ‘You can’t go play with your friends today. It’s your wedding day.’

That young boy was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. At thirteen years of age, he was about to get married to a girl who was just a little older than he was. His family would never have believed it then, but this boy was to grow up to become one of the world’s greatest leaders, who would lead India to freedom. He showed people a nonviolent way of life. Millions of people adored him and gave him titles like Father of the Nation, Bapu (meaning father) and Mahatma (meaning great soul). What an incredible achievement for such an ordinary boy, born to such ordinary parents!

A Happy Family

Young Mohan (for that was what his family called him) was born to Karamchand and Putlibai on 2 October 1869. Theirs was a large, happy family. Mohan had a sister and two brothers—all older than him, so you can imagine how much he was loved and petted. The family was quite wealthy and lived in a big, three-storeyed house in the Indian port-city of Porbandar, in what is now Gujarat. Karamchand was an educated man. The ruler of Rajkot admired him and made him the diwan of Porbandar. As diwan, he managed the business of the state. People respected Karamchand a lot and came to him for advice.

When Mohan was a young boy, he was very shy. He would spend all his time with his books.  This made him very thoughtful. However, he didn’t love studies; in fact, he found maths rather hard. But he was a good student overall, and his teachers thought well of him. One day, Mohan got his father’s permission to see a play about a king named Raja Harishchandra. The special thing about this king was that he never lied, no matter what happened to him. Mohan was so impressed by this play that he swore to never tell a lie in his life.

Always, Always Truthful

One morning, Mohan’s class was given a spelling test. Mohan knew all the spellings, except that of ‘kettle’. The English teacher, keen to prove that he was a good teacher, wanted all his students to know every spelling so that he could impress his superiors. When he saw that Mohan was unsure, he prodded him to peep at his neighbour’s slate and see the spelling.

‘But that would be cheating,’ an aghast Mohan thought. He refused to look at his neighbour’s slate, and eventually was the only boy in class who did not get all his spellings right. But that didn’t bother him. He was more bothered that his teacher had told him to cheat.

One of the only times Mohan lied was when he was in his early teens. He stole some gold from his brother and sold it. But it wasn’t for himself. He gave the money to his other brother to help him get out of debt. He couldn’t sleep that night. He tossed and turned, feeling awful. Finally, he confessed to his father. He was ready for any punishment. But instead of getting upset, Mohan’s father wept. He was hurt that his son had lied,  but happy he had confessed.

Mahatma Gandhi’s fascinating life goes way beyond the years documented in the pages of history. Get to know Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi before he became GandhiJi with Sonia Mehta’s ‘Junior Lives: Mahatma Gandhi’!

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