Birbal was born on 14th November 1891. He was the
second son of Lala Ruchi Ram Sahni and Shrimati Ishwar Devi. Then the family was living in
Bhera, a small town in Shahapur district (now a part of West Punjab in Pakistan).
Ruchi Ram lost his father in his childhood and suffered much. But he was a brilliant
student and won scholarships. He was able to educate himself. He became Professor of
Chemistry in the Lahore Government College.
Ruchi Ram Sahni was a patriot and social reformer. He opposed meaningless customs. He
was one of the leaders of the Brahma Samaj movement in Punjab. He participated in the
freedom movement and was more than once about to be arrested. In 1922, he returned the
title Rai Bahadur conferred upon him by the British government. As a result
the government threatened to stop his pension. His only answer was that he would face all
the consequences of his action. His pension was continued.
National leaders like Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Montilal Nehru,V.S. Srinivasa Shastri,
Sarojini Naidu and Madan Mohan Malaviya were guests at Ruchi Ram Sahnis house
sometimes. This atmosphere left its impress upon the children of the family. Intense
patriotism, generosity and fearlessness grew in Birbal.
Birbals mother Ishwar Devi was a pious lady. Her one aim in life was to see that
her children received the best education. Accordingly all the five sons got educated in
European Universities. The education of the daughters was not neglected. Their elder
daughter was among the first batch of women to graduate from Punjab University.
Birbal had great respect for his parents. In later years when he spoke of his father,
he was proud to call himself a chip of the old block.