One cannot understand Gandhi and his destiny without knowing the dominant features of his childhood. He appears as a rather puny, timid child, growing up in a very religious, though tolerant, family environment.
"I was born on the 2nd October 1869 in a small fishing village in the state of Gujarat. My family was of Vaishnava Hindu origin, and belonged to the Pranamin sect, belonging to the modh banya of the third caste of vaisya merchants.
My father Karamchand Gandhi did not possess a great deal of culture, but he was certainly a man of determination, and he got this personality trait from my grandfather, who was also in politics. My surname meant grocer, and we had acquired it over time because the Modh community to which we belonged was a trading group. My father had won the post of Prime Minister, the diwan, of the principality of Porbandar.
My mother, on the other hand, was a strict illiterate woman, deeply religious and devoted to virtue. She fasted and followed strict penances, and this devotion was my guide and influenced my soul for the rest of my life.
I did not particularly excel at school. I was shy, awkward, sometimes I was bullied by the other kids, and only found solace in reading.
My best friend was Sheik Mehtab, a Muslim whom I had tried to convert me in every way, without success. Although he was able to influence me. We were little rebels, every now and then we would steal something, have a few puffs of a cigarette, even eat meat! This did not go on for long, however, because I felt that what we were doing was wrong. One day, overwhelmed by the sense of guilt, I confessed everything to my father, who, shocked, burst into tears."
What is most significant in the story of this childhood is that from a very early age, Gandhi was driven by the search for truth. Indeed, it is the primary quest of his life.