The Other Faces of Jinnah

Pakistan’s founding father Mohammad Ali Jinnah was a leading freedom fighter, belonging to the more radical wing of the Congress before switching over to the demand for Pakistan. Both his political and personal life was more chequered than popular images both in India and Pakistan tend to conjure. Here is Jinnah, for example, defending Bhagat Singh and his comrades.

…A rare exception, according to Noorani, is the work by the veteran human rights activist I.A. Rehman, who praised the speech for the `coolly logical and convincing manner’ in which Jinnah “played a major role in foiling the attempt to make trial in absentia lawful”. Well, that was what the Government wanted to achieve through what came to be called `the Hunger-Strike Bill’.

…After adjournment, when he spoke again, he pleaded that the House consider `the real cause of the trouble’: “Is there today in any part of the globe a civilised government that is engaged, day in and day out, week in and week out, month in and month out, in prosecuting their people?” And there was more: “Do you think any many wants to exceed the bounds of law for the purpose of making a speech which your law characterises as a seditious speech, knowing full well the consequences, that he may have to go to jail for six months or a year?Do you think that this springs out of a mere joke or fun or amusement? Do you not realise yourself, if you open your eyes, that there is resentment, universal resentment, against your policy, against your programme?”

Jinnah was married to Rattenbai, from the Parsi family of Sir Dinshaw Petit, here is a review of the book ‘Ruttie Jinnah- The Story, told and Untold’:

Jinnah married his fabulously rich and renowned magnate Parsi friend Sir Dinshaw Petit’s daughter, Ruttie, when she was 18 and he was 42. Love has no logic. Sir Dinshaw opposed her daughter marrying Jinnah, but she stood firm and walked out of her parental home to which she was never to return.

… the author throws light on Ruttie’s life-style. Reading and horse-riding were her pleasures. She recited English poetry, and her favourite poet was Oscar Wilde. Besides law, Jinnah’s special interest lay in Shakespeare. While in London, he had acted in some of Shakespearean plays. He had thought of taking acting as his profession. Possibly, his interest in Shakespeare gave him insight into the intricacies of human character which he was to use for grasping the essentials of Indian politics.

After their marriage, the couple travelled a lot in India and abroad. Ruttie watched with a great sense of pride the feverish political activity of her husband. She came closely in touch with Mahatma Gandhi who advised her to speak in Hindi or Gujarati. The author narrates Jinnah’s encounter with Lord Willingdon, Governor of Bombay, who had invited Jinnah and his wife for dinner in Government House. Ruttie’s unconventional and “low-cut dress” upset Lady Willington who asked her A.D.C. to bring in a wrap for her. At this remark, Jinnah said, “When Mrs Jinnah needs a wrap, she will ask for it.” Thereafter, the couple walked out of the house.

According to the author, the relations between Jinnah and Ruttie became strained in January 1928. She fell ill and shifted to the Taj Mahal hotel. Accompanied by her mother, she went to Paris for medical treatment. Dewan Chiman Lall, who found her “delirious” in a Paris clinic, states that again both Jinnah and Ruttie quarreled. Ruttie returned to the Taj Mahal hotel on October 26, 1928, while Jinnah too reached Bombay. Ruttie’s condition deteriorated, and finally, death struck her on her birthday, February 20, 1929.


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