Jinnah & Ruttie- The unheard love story

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Mohammed Ali Jinnah & Ratanbai Petit in 1916 at Bombay, India

It was wonderful summer time in Darjeeling in 1916. India was still undivided and Mr. Jinnah led a very successful practice in Bombay. Dinshaw Maneckji Petit, his family members and Jinnah were on vacation at Mr. Petit’s mansion facing Mount Everest. Petit and Jinnah became good friends. Mr. Petit was Zoroastrian by religion and was one of the wealthiest and most influential personalities of Bombay’s elite class. Whereas, Jinnah became very successful lawyer after studying at England.

Today there are different views about Jinnah among the people in India and Pakistan. Many Indians view him as a traitor and manipulative man who used sentiments of Muslims for his political ambitions to divide the country into two parts on religious basis. Whereas, Pakistanis believe him as a father of the nation and saviour from tyrannies of Hindus. But, this story is neither intended to focus on the ideologies India and Pakistan nor focused on analysis of personality of Jinnah. Instead, this is based on less known story of Jinnah and Ruttie. It really was a fairy-tale like love story filled with lots of affection, emotions, passion, pain, anger, frustration and loneliness. Lead protagonists were really powerful personalities but were powerless in front of destinity.

In a traditional sense, Jinnah was not hardliner. In fact, western values dominated in his style, appearance and personality. He used to drink and liked to dress in westernized way. He participated in dramas of Shakespeare while studying at England. He hardly understood Urdu and only knew English and Gujarati-his mother tongue. So, Upon arrival in India, he chose Bombay for practicing law over Karachi where he was born. He immediately fell in love with Bombay because of its elegance and sophistication. He became very successful and accumulated lots of wealth. He became very well known among elites of Bombay.

Rattanbai Petit was a daughter of Dinshaw Petit. She also very famous in Bombay circles for her beauty and open minded attitude. She was called “Nightingale of Bombay” and was considered to be more mature than girls of her age. In one famous incidence, an English lady could not digest the way she dared to dress more boldly than her. She was a free spirit and whole world was at her feet.

Ideally, it was perfect pair rarely seen in real life. Therefore, sparks were bound to happen upon meeting. Jinnah enamored towards her beauty and charm and Ruttie fell for his personality. They immediately fell in love upon meeting at Darjeeling. At that time, Jinnah was 40 and Rattanbai was only 16. While taking dinner, Jinnah asked her father on his views about Inter-communal marriages. Mr. Petit replied that he had no issue with such marriages. Without any hesitation, Jinnah immediately asked for his approval to marry with his daughter. Mr. Dinshaw was taken aback and he refused it bluntly. This incidence ended their friendship.

Their age and religion were big deterrent. Mr. Dinshaw tried to dissuade his daughter but failed to do so. He forbade her to go anywhere. As Ruttie was minor, the law did not allow them to get married. So, they waited for two years. As soon as Rutti turned 18, Ruttie accepted Islam and acquired new name of Maryam. They got married after that at Jinnah’s house at Malbar Hill in Mumbai. Nobody from her family attended the marriage.

Her father vowed not to talk to her again and mourned over her though she was alive. But, Rutti remained firm on her decision. Initial years of the marriage went very well and she gave birth to a girl as well. She used to call him ‘J’ and they led the very happy life. But, the problem started appearing in the marriage. Jinnah was facing political isolation around 1922 and could not spend more time with the family. So, the distance between them kept on growing. Finally, she packed bags and went to London along with her three year old daughter, Dina. She stayed there for long time away from her husband and family. When she returned, she tried to meet him more often, but all efforts went in vain. So, Ruttie withdrew into the world of spirits and mysticism.

In 1925, Jinnah was appointed in the subcommittee to build a military college in Bombay. He took Ruttie and Dina with him to spend more time with her on his five month trip to Europe and North America. But, this trip had the opposite effect on their relationship. Finally, they gave up trying and became nearly separated around 1927.

Isolation, depression took a toll on health of Ruttie. After returning from the trip, her health deteriorated quickly due to cancer. She withdrew from the outside world and kept her interest in pets. Kanji, her long time friend, became her constant companion.

She went to Marseilles, France for her treatment and wrote the letter to Jinnah in October 1928. This letter was her last letter to Jinnah where she expressed her deep affection towards him and requested him to remember her as “flower you plucked and not the flower you tread upon”.

She mostly spent her last days in Taj Palace hotel. She became very weak by 18 February 1929. She finally died on 20 February 1929. It was her 29th birthday. She was buried in Mazgaon, Bombay according to Islamic rituals.

Chagle mentioned the condition of Jinnah in his book “Roses in December”-

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.”

This was the first time when Jinnah broke down and their fairy tale love story ended in very sad manner. They were madly in love with circumstances drew them apart. Jinnah could not spent more time with her due to his political commitments and this solitude and ignorance took live away from young flower Ruttie. The second time he broke in August 1947 when he visited Ruttie’s grave for the last time before going to Pakistan. He went to Pakistan never to return again.

Ruttie’s grave in Bombay

Jinnah’s life had a big impact due to her death and he slowly withdrew from active politics after that and went to England in 1931 along with his daughter-Dina. Jinnah’s sister Fatima helped him in his political campaigns and also raised Dina. In remarkable turn of events, Dina fell in love with Neville Wadia. Dina was Muslim and Neville was son of rich Zoroastrian family from Bombay. So, things happened in similar way with that of her father. As Jinnah was a big leader in Muslim League, he did not approve this.

Jinnah with his daughter Dina in 1930s

Wolpert writes that Jinnah asked Dina “there are millions of Muslim boys in India, is he the only one you were waiting for”. Dina replied “there were millions of Muslim girls in India, why did you marry my mother then”. Jinnah replied “but she became a Muslim before marriage”. Finally, Dina got married without Jinnah’s consent. So, Jinnah disowned her from using his last name and formally ended father-daughter relation. Hence, the distance between father and daughter grew. Their relation became very formal and Jinnah famously addressing his daughter as Mrs. Wadia. Meanwhile, Jinnah was actively involved in campaigning for separate country and Dina got settled in Bombay and they hardly met after that. The final meeting happened in Bombay in 1946.

Dina mostly spent her childehood between Bombay and London. Whereas, Neville was born in London to a Parsi Father and Christian Mother. Dina and Neville met in London and fell in love. Dina gave birth to one boy-Nusli Wadia and one girl.

When the division of India became reality, Jinnah left Bombay, his daughter, Ruttie’s memories and Malbar Hill house in Bombay. He visited Ruttie’s grave for the last time before partition and never returned. Jinnah also went to Pakistan with leaving all the dearest things behind. He famously mentioned his affection towards Bombay. He almost lost his soul when he left India for Pakistan.

After Pakistan’s independence, Jinnah died in November 1948. Dina visited his funeral in 1948 but she did not return to Pakistan until 2004. As the fate would have it, his daughter did not stay in Pakistan which he got after lots of struggle and hardship. One could also assume that the gap was so wider that she never bothered to return to Pakistan which was created by her father. In 2004, she was invited to attend the cricket match between India and Pakistan at Lahore. She also visited mausoleum of her father at Karachi. In the visitors’ book, Dina wrote: “This has been very sad and wonderful for me. May his dream for Pakistan come true.” This would appear to be a very appropriate summation of a life-experience that is essentially inexplicable.

Today, Jinnah’s legacy continues in Pakistan and India. He is considered to be the pioneer figure for the struggle of independence from British Empire and creator of Pakistan for Muslims. But, his legacy has no heir in Pakistan. His daughter, Dina Wadia lives in New York. Her sons, Nusli Wadia and Jahagir Wadia consider themselves to be Indians and they are the leading industrialists in India. Wadia group continues to flourish in India after initial rift with Nehru-Gandhi dominated political domain due to the legacy of Jinnah connection. Wadia Group has continued to grow with chain of many successful brands that have become house hold names in India. Nusli Wadia is believed to have close affinity with pro-hindu Bhartiya Janata Party and its leaders like Vajpayee and Advani. Hence, Jinnah’s legacy would be difficult to perish from history of India. In fact, it will continue through the ingrained hatred towards him in Indians or through his daughter’s family connection in India.

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2 thoughts on “Jinnah & Ruttie- The unheard love story

  1. There are two things I wanted to read in this post but had not. There was no mention of the date of Jinnah’s marriage and there is no mention of her daughter’s religion after her marriage. If you know these details, kindly inform me.

  2. Since the article was already big, I skipped some information. The information about their marriage is below:
    1. When Ruttie Turned eighteenth on February 20, she converted to Islam and adopted the name Mariam. Two months later, on April 19, 1918, they were married at his house South Court in Bombay. The wedding ring which Jinnah gave Ruttie was a present from the Raja of Mahmudabad. The Raja and a few close friends of Jinnah were the only guests at the wedding, and later the couple spent part of their honeymoon at the Mahmudabad palace in Nainital. The rest of their honeymoon was spent at the Maidens Hotel, a magnificent property just beyond the Red Fort.
    2. I do not know which religion Dina Wadia adopted after getting married, but I know that she is practicing Christianity now and stays in New York.

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