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‘WWI was in its concluding phases when a new yet tragic chapter of Jinnah’s life began. He was already an influential member of the Indian National Congress Party and had championed nationalist efforts like the Lucknow Pact and the Home Rule League, both of which demanded constitutional reforms from the British. He had also founded his own practice, which required him to travel a lot more than usual. Jinnah was also fighting a battle within the Congress because of the religious symbolism creeping into its roots.
Jinnah resided in Bombay which was in the very sense of the word, the ‘first city’ of India. It was a cosmopolitan metropolis, where Indians of all hue and color worked in the service of the British Empire. Jinnah’s political success had endeared him to many influential businessmen of Bombay, including Sir Dinshaw Petit. Sir Dinshaw was a Parsi who admired Jinnah’s nationalist ideology in comparison to Gandhi’s appeals to communal sentiments. Jinnah had earlier been associated with the Moderates of the Congress Party (i.e. Sir Pherozeshah Mehta, Naoroji) and had developed respect for the Parsi community because of their cosmopolitanism. It was during one of Jinnah’s dine inn’s at Sir Dinshaw’s home that he saw his daughter, Ruttie. This would be the only time in his life that he would fall in love.
Ruttie was 16 at the time, but her love for Jinnah blossomed in the hustle and bustle of suburban Bombay. They both shared the nationalistic fervor of an India free from imperial rule. Jinnah’s marriage proposal for her was rejected by Sir Dinshaw who forbade Ruttie from seeing him. Ruttie left her home and family the day she turned 18 and was subsequently married to Jinnah at his Bombay home. She converted to Islam before the marriage and was given the name Maryam, tho records indicate that she never used the name. Jinnah never asked her to either.
Ruttie and Jinnah were regarded as the most glamorous couple of Bombay. Ruttie was young, charming and exceptionally intelligent, which won her the jealousy of quite a few baronets and ladies of the city. Jinnah was by nature an uncompromising man, and when his wife would complain to him about the behavior of some of the socialites, he would openly reprimand the culprits and defend her. The principled manner in which Jinnah lived his life was projected onto his political dealings as well, as after the Great War ended he openly opposed the populist calls for quick self-government by Gandhi and his followers.
Gandhi was leading the civil disobedience movement, and had already patronized Jinnah as a ‘Muhammadan’, or Muslim. Gandhi then started appealing to the pan-Islamic sentiments of the 1920’s after the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire. Jinnah told his Muslim League comrades that the Khilafat Movement styled out of populist politics would never work. He was right, as when the Muslims foolishly vacated their homes to travel to Turkey, Gandhi called off the disobedience movement for several reasons, and told his followers to occupy the homes of those who had left. In Turkey, the Caliphate was dissolved by Ataturk, and the Allies divided the remaining lands among themselves. Indian Muslims were left stranded in Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq.
Jinnah’s principles finally pushed him to fringes of Indian politics and he was estranged from his party, eventually forced to leave it. S. S. Pirzada has said that Jinnah’s break with the Congress was the first step towards Pakistan. Jinnah’s political strides affected his personal life in very adverse ways. The isolation for Jinnah grew stronger when his marriage started to falter. Ruttie took to mysticism to compensate for her own loneliness, and it was then that she developed cancer.
Her death was inevitable, and she tried her best to cover up her illness for as long as she could. Jinnah was in Delhi when she died. At her funeral, a man who was never known to show emotion broke down into tears. He withdrew afterwards into his work. Such was the impact of her death that he never remarried. No one could have imagined at the time, not even Jinnah himself perhaps, that in just a few years he would deliver an independent homeland for the Muslims of India.
Jinnah resolved to move to Britain with his infant daughter to understandably take some time off. His love for Ruttie never faded however, as he was known to have kept her belongings in a trunk somewhere in his house. As per one of his chauffeurs, Jinnah would often tell one of the servants in the late hours of the night to open the trunk for him, which he would stare into in a trance like condition.
The only other time that Jinnah is known to have shown emotion is when he saw the misery and sufferings of the people during Partition.’
Video Credits: Jamil Dehlavi & Akbar S. Ahmed