Plain Mr Jinnah

25th December, 2008 marked the 132nd birth anniversary of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah. 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

Ruttie’s letter to Jinnah

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.

The young Jinnah and Ruttie

Jinnah’s disputed house in Mumbai

Emibai: Quaid’s first wife

The beautiful Ruttie Jinnah

Ruttie Jinnah’s desolate grave

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

2

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.

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” .

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.

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.

Darwaish is a Lahore based software engineer and a freelance writer. He can be contacted at chfarhad@hotmail.com

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27 Comments

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27 responses to “Plain Mr Jinnah

  1. To get more information about Pakistan, please visit
    http://real-politique.blogspot.com

  2. Monkey

    How refreshing to read something on Jinnah that has so little to do with Pakistan, politics and religion. Thanks Darwaish!

  3. Ashutosh Kumar

    Absolutely fascinating read. Never knew all this about Mr Jinnah!

  4. yasserlatifhamdani

    Read this in the Friday Times.

    The pic titled “Emi bai Jinnah’s first wife” is in my opinion wrong. I believe this is Fatima Jinnah.

    Can someone check please.

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  6. azhar aslam

    ylh

    i think u r right. emibai died 15 1/2 and the picture is clearly of someone older than that age. i have some pics of FJ and i have put the pic above alongside FJ’s pics and they seem to be the same person.

  7. Majumdar

    Meanwhile, two Oscar winners for India, both from “minorities” Jinnah’s India zindabad!!!

    Regards

  8. Milind Kher

    There is no doubt that Jinnah was a multifaceted personality and a highly intelligent person,.

    It is indeed refreshing to get a non political view of him. It is unfortunate that the vibrant secular state envisaged by him is now slowly being overrun by hardliners.

  9. Pingback: The Softer Side of Mr. Jinnah | Tea Break

  10. Good Knight

    hey you spoke about jinnah, his marriage, what about their daughter ????????? why is her details uphold ????

  11. bonobashi

    Lovely piece. Very refreshing view.

    @Darwaish

    There are some very interesting personal points made by the Indian Supreme Court lawyer and commentator Mr. A. G. Noorani, to which I wish to draw your attention. Some of these articles were re-printed in PTH itself. Gives a surprising picture of Jinnah, read along with this one. I wish you could incorporate those points too; it would be nice to see the complete profile, personal as well as professional, as people actually saw him.

    Thanks for this one.

  12. sam

    At best Jinnah’s personality is multi-faceted..

    Maybe Jinnah wanted a young girl, who is fascinated with him and is not worldly wise yet and would adore him unquestionably..

    This could mean that Jinnah’s personality can never let second tier leaders in Muslim league develop.

  13. yasserlatifhamdani

    Sammy boy…

    FYI

    Vithalbhai Patel’s Child Marriages Restraint Act – which Jinnah had gotten passed through valiant and superhuman effort against the Mullahs- set the lowest marriageable age at 16 years of age with consent of the father. Ruttie was 17 really when she fell in love with Jinnah and got married to him after she was 18 – i.e. when she did not need her father’s consent.

    One only needs to read “Ruttie Jinnah” by Kanji Dwarkadas to know that your comment that Ruttie was some dodo wide-eyed teenager is just ridiculous. Ruttie was sharp-witted, highly intelligent and well renowned for her nationalist feelings through out. Her come-backs to the Viceroy were legendary… and she was Jinnah’s closest confidant.

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  15. Ayisha Rai

    1st I have a lot of respect for Quaid but I do not agree with his beliefs neither did his daughter so she stayed back in India. I was born in undivided India and I moved to India after partition I have seen our my mothers parents properties taken over by muslims in Pakistan and we had to leave for India with nothing.
    Quaid himself was born to a hindu Rajput father, his grandfather was hindu rajput as well. We dont know when did he convert he himself married a hindu – Mrs Rattanbai Jinnah.
    Per Qoran, anybody who is true to faith is a muslim, Quran even considers Abraham as muslim because he was true to his faith and god, even though Islam didnt exist during Abraham and he wasnt muslim. So why should anyone be forced to convert if God is one and if someone is true to their faith or their God – This itself is against Islam!
    If India, Pakistan, Bangladesh were united we would have stopped terrorism in Pakistan today. United we would have achieved a lot.
    Some even recall Jinnah admited to creation of Pakistan a blunder before he was dying,
    “I acted according to my best judgment but the way things have shaped since then has made me realise that this was perhaps the greatest blunder of my political life.
    http://www.globalweb…/india_wins.htm

  16. Farrukh Bokhari

    Hi,
    i am looking for any reported cases which Mr Jinnah fought as a laywer either in London or in Bomby.
    Thanks
    FB

  17. I wish I could find a copy of the Statesman article, which details Mr Jinnah’s passionate and decades long battle for the Civil Marriage Act of India, which was passed in 1949, few months after his death. And which my parents married under. None of the Indian or Pakistani media want to highlight that Jinnah did NOT want his lovely Parsi wife, Rutti bai to have “religious” ceremony or “convert”..but the Brits wouldnt let Indians marry in civil unions. Thank you Mr Jinnah, for an unlikely gift.

  18. vajra

    @GhazalZ

    Do you have even an approximate date for the article?

  19. yasserlatifhamdani

    Ghazal,

    Get me more information on this…. this is extraordinary stuff… you have no idea how far and wide I will spread it.

    You are right that the Brits only allowed inter-faith marriage if both parties renounced their faith or if one converted to another….

    Mr. Jinnah – as a prominent Muslim Congressman and Muslim Leaguer at the time- could not renounce his faith … so Ruttie converted to Shia Ithna Ashari Khoja Islam … strictly on paper. She was named “Marium” a name neither Jinnah nor Ruttie ever used. (A few years ago Nazaria Pakistan foundation held a seminar on “Marium Jinnah- a Model for all Muslim Women”).

    Ruttie during her marriage with Jinnah also toured the United States and lectured at Duke University on Theosophy. There was nothing Islamic or Muslim about her life and lifestyle.

  20. yasserlatifhamdani

    Also… I checked out your website. You are very cool.

  21. Tarun Dattani

    Yasser

    ” ….so Ruttie converted to Shia Ithna Ashari Khoja Islam…”
    Are you sure – because I believe that at the time Jinnah belonged to the Nizari Ismaili Khoja community.Little detail about Jinnah’s ancestry –
    his family is descended from the Hindu Lohanas who are found mostly in Sind and Gujarat.
    M A Jinnah’s father was Jinnahbhai.
    Jinnah’s gfather:Poonjabhai
    Jinnah’s ggfather:Gokuldas
    Jinnah’s gggfather:Meghjibhai.
    The family name was Thakkar.

  22. yasserlatifhamdani

    Jinnah was born a Nizari Ismaili remained one till he was 25… and you’ve gotten the ancestry right.

    In 1901, one of his sisters- probably Mariam Peerbhoy- married into a non-Ismaili family of Bombay… consequently the Aga Khan ex-communicated her from the Ismaili faith…

    Jinnah and the rest of his family converted to Khoja Ithna Ashari sect in 1901 subsequently.

    They remained Khoja ithna ashari shias till their deaths… An affidavit to this effect was signed by Liaqat Ali Khan and Fatima Jinnah. During the 1965 election, Fatima Jinnah told pro-Ayub Hazaras that as a Shia she could represent them better.

    A court under General Zia-ul-Haq ruled that Jinnah was neither Shia nor a Sunni but a Muslim and therefore a Sunni by default. Bunkum.

    Officially sanctioned Akbar S Ahmad has also tried to portray him as a Sunni… Akbar S Ahmad is more interested in presenting liberal Jinnah as a mainstream Muslim to prove that Sunni Islam is compatible with modernity and liberalism.

  23. yasserlatifhamdani

    BTW… Jinnah was born a triple minority and became a quadruple minority… a minority subsect within a minority community within a minority sect within a minority faith.

    I think only I can claim a similar status … 🙂

  24. yasserlatifhamdani

    Farrukh Bokhari,

    Try AIR 1916 Bombay….

    I remember checking once- I didn’t check the rest of the years… Mr. Jinnah had 9 or 10 reported cases in 1916 alone.

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  26. sharjeel

    awesome thanks a lot for giving such nice info…..
    just like shakespear plays
    all love story’s get a sad ending.

  27. Pingback: The Softer Side of Mr. Jinnah « Khudi.pk