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The Softer Side of Mr. Jinnah


By Dr. Irfan Zafar

More than 61 years have  passed since the death of founder of Pakistan , Quaid-i-Azam  Mohammad Ali Jinnah. But even today, nothing about  Jinnah seems ordinary —not his legal career, politics, personal  life, his legacy and even the property he left  behind.

The great South Asian  intellectual Eqbal  Ahmed once described Jinnah as an enigma of modern  history. His aristocratic English  lifestyle, Victorian manners, and secular outlook rendered him  a most unlikely leader of India ’s Muslims. Yet, he led them  to separate statehood, creating history, and in Saad R.  Khairi’s apt phrase, “altering  geography”.

Much has been written  about Jinnah’s legal career, politics, his role as a founder  of Pakistan and his vision, but even today, very little is  known about Jinnah’s personal  life. This was probably because  Jinnah never had time to write a diary or an autobiography and  whatever little he wrote was formal and matter of  fact.  For most of his life, he  remained reserved, taciturn and secretive. He wrote his will in May, 1939,  but it was only after his death that Liaquat Ali Khan, his close associate and the first Prime  Minister of Pakistan, came to know that he was its trustee and  executor.

His only child, Dina  Wadia, has hardly ever spoken about her father in public. So furious was Jinnah with Dina that he disowned her  after she married a Parsi man against his wishes, and yet he  left two lacs for her in his will. Akbar  Ahmed’s  movie Jinnah  had just ten to fifteen minutes on Jinnah’s  personal life, which are nowhere near enough.

Jinnah’s first wife,  fourteen year old Emibai from Paneli village, died just eight  months after he left for London at age sixteen in 1892, to  join Graham’s Shipping and Trading Company, which conducted  business with his father in Karachi. It was a forced marriage,  as Jinnah’s mother was afraid that if he went to England , he  might end up marrying an English girl. He barely knew  Emibai.

Jinnah’s second marriage  with the most beautiful girl of Bombay – Ruttie: The  Flower of Bombay – was like a fairy tale. It began  in the summer of 1916 in Darjeeling or “Town of the  Thunderbolt” (how appropriate considering what was to happen  there).

Jinnah had established  himself as a lawyer and a politician by then and had become  friends with Sir Dinshaw Maneckjee Petit, the son of one of  the richest and most devoutly orthodox Parsis of the 19th century.

The Petit`s chateau overlooked Mount Everest and it  was there Jinnah met his only daughter Ruttenbai Petit or  Ruttie as she was popularly called. Merely sixteen at that  time, Ruttie was a charming young girl. Stanley  Wolpert  writes in Jinnah of   Pakistan :  “Precociously  bright, gifted in every art, beautiful in every way. As she  matured, all of her talents, gifts and beauty were magnified  in so delightful and unaffected a manner that she seemed a  fairy princess”.

A dazzling beauty and  full of life, Ruttie had exquisite taste and affable manners.  Quick-witted, she was easily one of the best dressed and most  popular women among the elitist circles of Bombay . She was  intellectually far more mature than other girls of her age,  with diverse interests ranging from poetry (Oscar Wilde being  her favorite, whom she often recited) to politics. Her large  collection of books, which remained in Jinnah’s possession  after her death, reflected her deep interest in poetry,  literature, history, occultism, mysticism and sorcery. She was  an excellent horse-rider. She attended all public meetings and  was inspired by Annie Besant’s Home Rule League.

A fierce  supporter of India for Indians, Ruttie was once asked about  rumors of Jinnah’s possible knighthood and whether she would  like to be Lady Jinnah. She snapped that she would rather be  separated from her husband than take on an English  title.

Jinnah on the other hand  also had a special interest in acting and in Shakespeare’s  dramas. While in London , he had acted in some Shakespearean  plays and even considered seriously taking up acting as a  profession. It was his dream to play Romeo at The Globe in   London . Khwaja Razi Haider thinks it was probably Jinnah’s  deep interest in Shakespeare that gave him insight into the  intricacies of the human character, which he was to use for  grasping the essentials of Indian politics.  Jinnah was thirty-nine  and Ruttie sixteen, but the age difference proved no obstacle  in their love. Love has no logic.

He was enamored by her  beauty and charm and she was awe- struck by “Jay”, as she  called him. Jinnah asked Sir Dinshaw for Ruttie’s hand in  marriage, who became furious and refused. Jinnah repeatedly  pleaded his case but Dinshaw never gave in, as Jinnah had a  different faith and he was more than twice Ruttie’s age. Their  friendship ended and Dinshaw forbade Ruttie from meeting  Jinnah while she lived in his house. He even got a court  injunction restraining Jinnah from meeting her (a pity no  biographer has yet traced the court papers).

The couple  continued to meet secretly, and patiently waited for two years  until February 1918 when Ruttie turned eighteen, and was free  to marry. She walked out of her parental home to which she was  never to return, and converted to Islam at Bombay ’s Jamia  Mosque, under the Muslim Shiite doctrine, on April 18,  1918.

The very next day, Jinnah and Ruttie got  married in a quiet ceremony at Jinnah’s Malabar Hill house in   Bombay . Located in a most highly-priced area today, with  Maharashtra’s Chief Minister as its next-door neighbor, Jinnah  House remains a dispute between India , Pakistan and Dina  Wadia. Jinnah owned another house at 10 Aurangzeb Road , Delhi  , which he sold just before Partition for Rs 3 lacs. The Dutch  Ambassador to India lives there now. The Raja Sahib of  Mahmudabad, who signed as Jinnah’s witness, and a few other  friends, attended the wedding. Maulana Muhammad Hasan Najafi  was Ruttie’s witness. Jinnah presented the wedding ring to  Ruttie, a gift from Raja Sahab, and paid Rs 125,000 as  haq  mehr . Nobody from Ruttie’s family  attended the wedding. Interestingly, the Nikah Nama stated  “Ruttenbai” as the bride’s name instead of Marium, her Islamic  name. The honeymoon was first at Raja Sahab’s Nainitaal  mansion, and then at the Maidens Hotel, a magnificent property  just beyond the Red Fort.

Jinnah's Nikkahnama

Gandhi’s grandson Raj  Mohan Gandhi writes about the wedding in his book  Understanding the Muslim Mind:  “For  the first time in his life, a girl had absorbed Jinnah’s  emotions. Living for sometime now in a large but somber  Malabar Hill house, bowing to ladies (on occasional parties)  and praising their sarees but otherwise keeping a distance  from them, (he) fell in love with Ruttenbai. Joy and laughter  entered Jinnah’s life. The Malabar Hill house became  brighter.’ She presented him with a daughter, Dina. But, ‘Alas  the happiness was not destined to last; Sarojni’s veiled  prediction of trouble came  true”.

Jinnah's House in Bombay

Sarojni Naidu was a huge  admirer of Jinnah, wrote several poems and prose pieces on  him, and many historians believe she was in love with him.  She  wrote this about the wedding in a letter to Sir Syed’s son,  Syed Mahmud:  “So  Jinnah has at last plucked the Blue Flower of his desire. It  was all very sudden and caused terrible agitation and anger  among the Parsis; but I think the child has made far bigger  sacrifices than she yet realises. Jinnah is worth it all – he  loves her; the one really human and genuine emotion of his  reserved and self-centred nature. And he will make her  happy.”

The first few years of  the marriage were a dream for Ruttie and Jinnah, the happiest  time of their lives. They traveled across India , Europe and   North America together. Ruttie watched with a great sense of  pride the feverish political activity of her husband. She  would be seen in the visitors’ gallery when Jinnah was due to  speak, accompanied him to the High Court, and even attended  the Nagpur session of the Congress in December 1920.

According  to Wolpert:  “They were a head-  turning couple; he in his elegant suits, stitched in London ,  she with her long, flowing hair decked in flowers. There was  no limit to their joy and satisfaction at that time. Their  only woe was Ruttie’s complete isolation and ostracism from  her family.”

Kanji Dwarkadas, a  veteran leader of Congress and a close friend of the couple,  who looked after Ruttie during her last days, wrote in his  book Ruttie Jinnah: The story of a great friendship:   “For  Jinnah, who was not generous in many matters, no expense was  too great to satisfy the extravagant claims of the baronet’s  spoilt child. During a visit to Kashmir , she spent Rs 50,000  in refurnishing the boathouse and Jinnah gladly paid all the  bills. He treated her wonderfully well, and paid without a  murmur all the bills necessitated by the luxurious life she  led.  Ruttie’s fabulous beauty,  spontaneous wit, and immense charm have been praised to the  neglect of her serious  interests.”

Even though Ruttie was  much younger than Jinnah, she made him a very happy man. They  had no separate existence and Jinnah found her a great source  of inspiration. He resigned from the Orient Club where he used  to play chess and billiards. He was so deeply in love with  Ruttie that he would return from the law courts on time each  day and talk to her for hours on end.

Unfortunately, their  happiness was short- lived and the marriage started to crack  after 1922-3. What caused the ruination of the Jinnah-Ruttie  marriage? Was it Jinnah’s busy political life and his  inability to give enough time to Ruttie, their age difference,  or their incompatibility of temperaments? He was cold,  introverted and domineering. She was young, extroverted,  glamorous. There is no clear answer but the fact remains that  Ruttie and Jinnah still loved each other despite the rift in  their marriage.

It is evident in every letter Ruttie wrote  during that period, and every book written on their  relationship. She moved to London with Dina in 1922 and from  there too, her heart was still set on her life with Jinnah.

She wrote in a letter to Kanji in India :“And just one thing more – go and  see Jinnah and tell me how he is – he has a habit of  overworking himself and now that I am not there to tease and  bother him, he will be worse than  ever.”

After her return, the  couple tried one more time to save their failing marriage and  took a five-month tour to Europe and North America together.  But the rift grew and by January 1928 they were virtually  separated, when Ruttie became seriously ill with cancer.  Shortly before her death, she wrote a letter to Jinnah from   Marseilles , France where she had gone for treatment. It  turned out to be her last letter to him (larger view of  original hand-written letter with typed text here

S. S.  Rajputana,

Marseilles 5 Oct 1928

Darling –  thank you for all you have done. If ever in my bearing  your once tuned senses found any irritability or  unkindness – be assured that in my heart there was place  only for a great tenderness and a greater pain – a pain  my love without hurt. When one has been as near to the  reality of Life (which after all is Death) as I have  been dearest, one only remembers the beautiful and  tender moments and all the rest becomes a half veiled  mist of unrealities. Try and remember me beloved as the  flower you plucked and not the flower you tread  upon.

I have suffered much sweetheart because I  have loved much. The measure of my agony has been in  accord to the measure of my love.

Darling I love  you – I love you – and had I loved you just a little  less I might have remained with you – only after one has  created a very beautiful blossom one does not drag it  through the  mire. The higher you set your  ideal the lower it falls.

I have loved you my darling as it is  given to few men to be loved. I only beseech you that the tragedy  which commenced in love should also end with it.

Darling  Goodnight and Goodbye

Ruttie

It is a pity that none of the  letters that Jinnah wrote to Ruttie have ever been made public. M.C.  Chagla, a former Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court and a diplomat  at the UN, has described the last days of Ruttie and Jinnah’s marriage  in his book “Roses in December”. Chagla knew the couple very well, as  he assisted Jinnah at his chambers during that time. He idealized  Jinnah but severed all ties when he began working on the idea of an  independent state for the Muslims of India. He writes:

By 1927,  Ruttie and Jinnah had virtually separated. Ruttie’s health  deteriorated rapidly in the years after they returned from their final  trip together. Ruttie lived at the Taj Hotel in Bombay, almost a  recluse as she became more and more bed-ridden. Kanji continued to be  her constant companion. By February 18, 1929 she had become so weak  that all she could manage to say to him was a request to look after  her cats. Two days later, Ruttie Petit Jinnah died. It  was her 29th birthday.

She was buried  on February 22 in Bombay according to Muslim rites. Jinnah sat like a  statue throughout the funeral but when asked to throw earth on the  grave, he broke down and wept. That was the only time when I found  Jinnah betraying some shadow of human weakness. It’s not a well  publicised fact that as a young student in England it had been one of  Jinnah’s dreams to play Romeo at The Globe. It is a strange twist of  fate that a love story that started like a fairy tale ended as a  haunting tragedy to rival any of Shakespeare’s  dramas.”

The second time Jinnah ever broke down was in August  1947 when he visited Ruttie’s grave one last time before leaving for   Pakistan . The architect of Pakistan paid a high price for Partition  by leaving two of his most beloved possessions on ‘the other’ side of  the border, the Jinnah House on Malabar Hill where he had the happiest  moments of his life, and his beloved wife Ruttie who remains buried in  Bombay. Jinnah left India in August 1947, never to return again, but  he left behind a piece of his heart in a little grave in a cemetery in   Bombay .

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Vision 21 is Pakistan based non-profit, non- party Socio-Political organisation. We work through research and advocacy for developing and improving Human Capital, by focusing on Poverty and Misery Alleviation, Rights Awareness, Human Dignity, Women empowerment and Justice as a right and obligation. We act to promote and actively seek Human well-being and happiness by working side by side with the deprived and have-nots.

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