LAHORE: A seminar was held here at the Government College University (GCU) Lahore on ‘a memoir of pre-partition Punjab, 1863-1948’ penned down by the Punjabi freedom fighter, educationist and social reformer Professor Ruchi Ram Sahni, and edited by Dr Neera Burra. Vice Chancellor Prof Hassan Amir Shah chaired the seminar which was also addressed by renowned scholar Prof Pervaiz Vandal, eminent historian Prof Dr Tahir Kamran and Dr. Neera Burra, the great granddaughter of Prof. Sahni. In his key note address, Prof Vandal, the director of THAAP, said that there were in fact two stories in the book; one was the autobiography of Prof Shani, and the other, as interesting as any treasure hunt, depicted the dedication and singleness of purpose in pursuit of the autobiography. “With its twists of fate and with lady luck smiling on the brave Burra as she chased missing clues and succeeds in compiling a coherent account; an achievement as compelling as her progenitor’s autobiography,” he added. Prof Vandal believed that the autobiography also portrayed in detail the cultural, social and the economic conditions prevailing during the period of the colonial times as Ruchi Ram talked of his tribulations in everyday life. “The changing society, and its resistance to change, is documented with patience and humour. Ruchi Ram tells us that the Hindus, with exposure to the new education and liberalization, slowly began to relinquish the old practices of caste discrimination etc. while the Muslims, engendered amongst themselves the same customs of discrimination among themselves,” he added. Taking about personality of Prof Sahni, the THAAP director said science education perhaps developed his rational approach to life, and he accepted the rational and reformist ideology of the Brahmo Samaj and became a strong supporter of widow remarriage, and spoke against cast discrimination, child marriage, the dowry system, and expensive wedding and funeral ceremonies. “His illustrated lectures on science became popular all over Punjab, all the more for the reason because they were in Punjabi. He became a strong advocate for teaching science in Punjabi language forcefully making the point that children should be taught science in the vernacular,” he concluded. While addressing the seminar, Dr. Neera Burra, , a senior social development advisor at United Nations Development Programmne (UNDP), India Office, said that Ruchi Ram Sahni spent his own money on science experiments which he conducted not only in laboratories but also on the street corners in Lahore and the surrounding rural areas. She added that the memoir was a richly annotated autobiography of Ruchi Ram that recounts his confrontation with orthodox Hinduism. “The book also describes the discrimination practiced by Europeans against Punjabis,” she said. Published in Daily Times, March 1st 2018.