“A Gandhi is not born — he is built”

C.S. Lewis said that whenever he read biographies about famous individuals, he always found the most interesting part NOT to be the great accomplishments for which these persons are known; rather, their young years.

I think it’s because famous people can be so different in their young years from how they later became known.

I remember reading a biography of Martin Luther King, Jr., in which — as a young kid — he was having an argument with his younger brother.  The younger brother saw Martin pick up the phone.  The brother naturally thought Martin was going to call their father.  Instead, Martin took the phone and clobbered his brother over the head with it!

Pacifists are not born — they are built.

Gandhi wrote an autobiography that covered his years from his birth in 1869 (October is the anniversary of his birth – October 2) to 1929.  (He would live a further 19 years.)

Of his earliest years, he writes of being painfully, pathologically shy.  He would run home from grade school so that he didn’t have to talk to anybody.  Even years later as a young attorney, when he had his first case — a simple, small-claims matter — when he stood to speak, his legs shook, he became dizzy — he had to turn the matter over to a colleague (who won the routine case easily).

Then came his teenage years.  Gandhi was pushed into an arranged marriage at the age of 13 (the same age as his wife).  In the autobiography, Gandhi hides nothing about a teenage boy with flaring hormones having access to a female.  He wrote about being distracted all day long in school – just anticipating what he could engage in once he got home.  He got his wife pregnant when she was only 16.

Gandhi wrote openly, regretfully of his behavior.

In those early years, Gandhi bullied his wife.  He bossed her around and was possessively jealous.  He also essentially abandoned her (and their two sons at the time), going off without them to South Africa to find work as an attorney.  They didn’t see each other for three years!

All of these scenarios are so different from the Gandhi that we know.

It just goes to show – a Gandhi is not born – he is built.  He himself always claimed – anybody could do what he was doing.  Leaders are not born — their character is built.




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