Dina was born on the night between 14th and 15th August, 1919. She made a dramatic entry into the world, announcing her arrival when her parents were enjoying a movie at a local theatre in London. PHOTO: DR. GHULAM NABI KAZI
Nehru and Jinnah had the same problem. Their daughters loved men they did not approve of. Children of ambitious fathers, Indira and Dina, both, carried their fathers’ hopes and lived with their mothers’ pain.
They were daughters who were raised in the mould of the young English ladies their fathers had gone to school with. Jinnah’s daughter, Dina was born in Britain and, like Indira, went to school there.
What the girls did not know was that it was all fine and dandy to wear modern ideas but you don’t go to bed in them. Both girls crossed the line and fell in love with men of another faith.
Dina was born on the night between August 14 and 15, 1919. She made a dramatic entry into the world, announcing her arrival when her parents were enjoying a movie at a local theatre in London.
When Dina was introduced to Neville Wadia, she was 17-years-old. The year was 1936.
Neville was born to a Parsi (Zoroastrian) father and a Christian mother. His father, Sir Ness Wadia, was a well-known textile industrialist in India. Neville was born in Liverpool, England, and educated at Malvern College and Trinity College, Cambridge.
Mahommedali Currim Chagla, who was Jinnah’s assistant at the time, writes in his autobiography Roses in December:
“Jinnah asked Dina ‘there are millions of Muslim boys in India, is he the only one you were waiting for?’ and Dina replied, ‘there were millions of Muslim girls in India, why did you marry my mother then?’”
Jinnah and Ruttie:
Jinnah, you see, was no stranger to love. We learn about Ruttie and Jinnah from Khwaja Razi Haider’s book Ruttie Jinnah: The Story Told And Untold.
Twenty years after the death of his first wife, Jinnah had turned to mush in the arms of 16-year-old Ruttie, Dina’s mother-to-be, and a Zoroastrian to boot. They wanted a civil marriage and the law at the time stated that you had to forswear religion to get married in court. Haider explains that this meant Jinnah had to resign his Muslim seat in the Imperial Legislative Council. Ruttie solved the problem by embracing Islam and marrying Jinnah. Love that had blossomed while horse-riding in Darjeeling was sealed with a forbidden kiss.
Ruttie’s father, Sir Dinshaw Petit, a textile magnate and Jinnah’s client was horrified that his only child was marrying Jinnah, a man of another faith, and had forbidden them from meeting each other. Sir Dinshaw went to court and got a restraining order. The couple had to wait for two years before Ruttie reached legal age and was able to marry Jinnah and leave her parental home.
It was love’s early days. According to Haider, when Jinnah, or J as she called him, worked in stuffy offices, with stuffy men, discussing stuffy things, while Ruttie, the flower of Bombay, waited patiently in the musty rooms of courts of law. She travelled with Jinnah to meetings, including the Congress session in Nagpur, and spoke vociferously in favour of Hindu-Muslim unity in the face of the colonial enemy Britain.
Jinnah admired and indulged Ruttie. Haider shares an interesting anecdote of their dinner at the Government House. The story goes:
Mrs Jinnah wore a low-cut dress. While they were seated at the dining table, Lady Willingdon, Marie Freeman-Thomas, Marchioness of Willingdon asked an aide-de-camp (ADC) to bring a wrap for Mrs Jinnah, in case she felt cold. Jinnah rose from the table, and declared,
“When Mrs Jinnah feels cold, she will say so, and ask for a wrap herself.”
Then he led his wife from the dining-room, and from that time on refused to go to the Government House again.
A precarious balance:
However, real life has a way of sneaking up. The first few years of Jinnah’s marriage to Ruttie also coincided with challenging times at work. Gandhi returned to India and his political tactics were different from those of Jinnah’s constitutional ones.
During the second and third year of his marriage, Jinnah was forced to make three remarkable decisions that reduced his role in India’s freedom struggle: he resigned from the Imperial Legislative Council, the Home Rule League and Indian National Congress. The graph of Jinnah’s career showed an increasingly downward trend. During the 1920 session of Congress, with Ruttie by his side, Jinnah saw Gandhi hijack the movement. As opposed to Jinnah’s constitutional ways, says Jaswant Singh in his book India, Pakistan Independence, Gandhi was taking the movement to the streets with chaotic demands like Purna Swaraj (complete self-rule).
“Your way is the wrong way: my way is the right way—the constitutional way is the right way,” Jinnah had said to Gandhi.
Jinnah parted ways with the Congress. He held no public office except for his membership of the Muslim League. Moved from the national stage, Jinnah now had a smaller platform to stand on.
Dina was a year old when India veered in the direction of non-cooperation and civil disobedience, and her father, Jinnah, disagreeing with Gandhi’s tactics, took a back seat. The family immersed themselves in the Parsi community. Professor Akbar S Ahmed in his book Jinnah, Pakistan and Islamic Identity, records how the family travelled through Europe and dined with friends at Savoy and Berkeley during that time.
Gandhi was jailed in March, 1922. Ruttie and Dina saw Jinnah throw himself into the 1923 November Central Legislative Assembly elections to their neglect. Jinnah fought for adequate representation of the Muslim legislative assemblies even as Gandhi was released from jail.
Haider details how, at home, Ruttie, and nine-year-old Dina took a back seat in Jinnah’s life and for Ruttie, the psychological stress caused colitis to flare up. They moved out of the house in 1928 to the Taj Mahal Hotel. Jinnah accepted his role in the failing marriage,
“It is my fault: we both need some sort of understanding we cannot give.” [Haider]
“Mrs Jinnah had already sailed for Europe, with her parents, when her husband left Bombay in April 1928; his political career in dark confusion, and his one experiment in private happiness apparently wrecked for ever,” writes Hector Bolitho in the official biography called Jinnah.
It is from Bolitho we learn that Diwan Chaman Lall, a colleague and friend, took a voyage to England and after the voyage declared, “he is the loneliest man”.
Soon after the ship arrived in England, Jinnah went to Ireland, and Diwan Chaman Lall to Paris where Ruttie and Dina were staying. Chaman Lall had been in his hotel only a few minutes when he learned that Ruttie was in a hospital, dangerously ill.
He described the story to Bolitho,
“I went to the hospital immediately. I had always admired Ruttie Jinnah so much: there is not a woman in the world today to hold a candle to her for beauty and charm. She was a lovely, spoiled child, and Jinnah was inherently incapable of understanding her. She was lying in bed, with a temperature of 106 degrees. She could barely move, but she held a book in her hand and she gave it to me. ‘Read it to me, Cham,’ she said. It was a volume of Oscar Wilde’s poems.
“A few days later Jinnah arrived from Ireland. I waited in the hospital while he went in to see her—two and half hours he was with her. When he came out of her bedroom, he said ‘I think we can save her … I am sure she will pull through’. Ruttie Jinnah recovered and I left Paris, soon afterwards, for Canada, believing they were reconciled. Some weeks passed, and I was in Paris again. I spent a day with Jinnah, wondering why he was alone. In the evening, I said to him, ‘Where is Ruttie?’ He answered ‘we quarrelled: she has gone back to Bombay’. He said it with such finality that I dare not ask any more.”
Jinnah found it difficult to maintain his position at the national level given Gandhi’s arrival and rapid ascendancy. In 1928, Motilal Nehru presented the Nehru Report in Calcutta and came out squarely on the side of Gandhi. Jinnah sensed an unmatchable opponent. He spoke about the danger of ignoring the insecurities of the minorities. As he left, he said to Jamshed Nusserwanjee,
“Jamshed, this is the parting of the ways.”
“Dina, however, maintained that Ruttie died of colitis or something more complicated, but it certainly was a digestive disorder. The disease caused Ruttie excruciating pain towards the end. At one stage, an overdose almost killed her, and even suggested to some people that she had attempted suicide,” wrote Akbar Ahmed in his book Jinnah, Pakistan and Islamic Identity.
While Jinnah was preoccupied with work troubles, Ruttie lay in the Taj Mahal Hotel with a broken heart. Dina watched her mother’s life ebb away. Two months later she died—not yet 29-years-old.