In 1947, Lahore had the most educational institutions for any Asian city; and among the best was Forman Christian College that American activist and academician Dr Charles William Forman had built in 1864. Among its brilliant teachers was one reverend Dr ED Luckas, economics professor there for more than 40 years and principal from 1942 to 1945.
Dr Luckas was adored as much for his teaching style as for the practical ways in which he tackled life's obstacles. In 1945, before the annual convocation in May, he called a meeting of teachers and suggested that Mahatma Gandhi, who had just been released from jail, be invited to bless the students. Gandhiji was invited indeed. Dr Luckas touched his feet on the dais and asked the teachers to do the same. Several teachers and students did. It upset the British. A complaint reached Punjab governor BJ Glancy, who forced Dr Luckas to resign and brought one professor Mukherjee from (then) Calcutta as principal. Dr Luckas continued as professor and head of the economics department until 1952.
In 1942, Dr Luckas allowed and supported the Quit India Movement rallies on the college premises. When some students were arrested for illegal assembly, he got them out on bail. In spite of the British pressure, he expelled none. In his 40-year teaching career, he didn't charge any salary. His food and stay were on the college. He would reach office early and dust his room, never asking any employee to do it for him. He would be by the side of the ailing students even before their families got to hospital, and dozens of times, he gave his blood to save their lives.
In 1945, Dr Luckas hosted a Christmas dinner, where Punjab premier (as the chief minister was then known) Sir Khizer Hayat Khan Tiwana, the chief justice, judges of the high court, and top civil and military officers were present. A waiter toppled a bowl of koftas on Sir Tiwana. Embarrassed, the premier flew into rage, and all the elite there became livid. The premier's personal staff took him away to a retiring room, where he changed his dress. The college waiter was trembling, and even the guests were scared for him. Next day, Dr Luckas called the waiter over and said that to err is human, and this was an unwitting mistake. He wrote a regret letter to the premier and settled the issue.
In 1947, some 300 boys went to Nishat cinema house in Lahore and forced the misbehaving staff to play the movie without any of them purchasing the 12-anna ticket. In the evening, the manager sought an audience with Dr Luckas and requested for compensation.
Dr Luckas paid all the money but said nothing to the students. The students once smashed the windowpanes of private buses during a strike and even then he compensated the owners.
In 1952, he moved to the US, where he died on December 29, 1964, 50 years from today. Among his notable students are late former prime minister Inder Kumar Gujral, former Lok Sabha speaker Balram Jakhar, and Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal.
(The writer is a Chandigarh-based IAS officer of Punjab.)