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Mr And Mrs Jinnah

Quaid-e-Azam, father of a nation, the icon of freedom and liberty for the Muslims of the sub-continent and the most remarkable statesman are titles that are bestowed upon Muhammad Ali Jinnah, but in all these accolades, his private life is shadowed. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, even with all his greatness and potential could not escape the pitfalls and perils of a challenging romantic relationship. Mr and Mrs Jinnah, a book by Sheela Reddy, sheds light on the romantic marriage between Jinnah and Ruttie Petit, how it happened and why it ended on a sad note. Varying shades of Jinnah, Ruttie and socio-cultural perceptions of that era are beautifully depicted by Reddy as she utilizes original sources and letter by Mr. Maryam Jinnah aka Ruttie Petit. The book describes the whole picture of Jinnah’s marriage in three parts, first, their love affair and how they got married, second, why the marriage could not last and three, what happened to Ruttie afterwards and what she was left with till her pessimistic illness and death at the age of 29.

Imtiaz Rafi

Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s story begins with him returning from London with a degree in Law. He was a picture of self-confidence and success. He was young, good looking and impeccably dressed. Ruttie Petit, daughter of Dinshaw Petit, belonged to a rich Parsi family. The Petits were practically like royalty. They were one of the most prominent names in politics and business in India. Coming from such an aristocratic setup, Ruttie was spoiled and pampered throughout her childhood by nannies and maids. With affluence, the family was modernized with an exceptional blend of Western and Eastern values. Ruttie was pure elegance when it came to dressing andshe had given up “purdah” and Eastern clothing early on. She was an avid reader of English literature. Romantic novels and poetry were her favorite. Ruttie was also deeply involved in politics and had strong opinions when it came to freedom and liberty for India. Initially, Jinnah was a friend of Dinshaw Petit, father of Ruttie, and when they met for the first time on a vacation in Pune, it was love at first sight and Ruttie was taken over by the confidence and intelligence that were a part of Jinnah’s personality. Ruttie admired Jinnah’s competence and his strength of character. Jinnah, on the other hand, came to like Ruttie’s liveliness and her playful nature, perhaps, she offered everything that Jinnah was not. Eventually, Jinnah and Ruttie fell in love even though Jinnah was only 3 years younger than Ruttie’s father at the time. She was sixteen and he was forty years old, also, he was a prominent Muslim lawyer and she was Parsi royalty, a tumultuous relationship was born.

Jinnah asked for Ruttie’s hand in marriage but her father not only refused, he got restraining orders against Jinnah to stay away from their family. Ruttie had no plans to back down from the love she had for this man much older than her. At the age of eighteen, Ruttie left her rich home and sacrificed everything for Jinnah, only with her dog and an umbrella. Jinnah also faced loads of criticism for having a romantic relationship outside the Muslim community, particularly from religious scholars and maulanas but he was not deterred. Finally, Ruttie converted to Islam for Jinnah and they got married in 1914. The marriage was received as shock in the whole of India. When Ruttie’s father read about the marriage in a newspaper, he fainted. Later, Mr. Dinshaw filed a police case against Jinnah that he had abducted Ruttie. Later, Ruttie had to come to court and stated clearly, “Jinnah has not abducted me, I have abducted him”. Jinnah also faced criticism. Even Fatima Jinnah, the beloved sister, was not a supporter of this marriage. Ruttie never got along with Jinnah’s family. She converted to Islam but could not change her mind, her sensitivities and her childhood. She actively engaged in politics and did what she thought was right. She took part in processions, political movements and stood by Jinnah wherever possible. She was highly against the British Rule and showed her contempt for colonial rule at numerous occasions. For disrespectful behavior, she was soon shunted from invitations to British functions and gatherings, she did not care. Because of Ruttie’s marriage to a Muslim and her conversion, Ruttie was left out from all her family and friends. She sacrificed everything banking on the love and care of Jinnah, something that could not hold in the years to come.

 

After marriage, Jinnah got heavily engaged with his career and political pursuits and Ruttie was left alone. The couple thought that having a child would give new life to their marriage and Dina was born after a year but even this could not help. Jinnah could not spare enough time for Ruttie and she was all by herself. She had given Jinnah everything she had and Jinnah considered his struggle for the Muslims of the sub-continent as his “everything”. Also, Muhammad Ali Jinnah was a stern personality. His world existed in black and white, powered by the logics and hard truths of law and jurisprudence. He was a picture of English sobriety and detachment. Many a times Ruttie called him by the word “cold”, others referred to Jinnah as astute, harsh, stubborn and downright emotionless. Ruttie was a contrast that Jinnah could not understand. Soon, the marriage started breaking apart and Ruttie slipped into deep depression and drug-abuse. She needed warmth and time which Jinnah could not spare.

Sheela Reddy has depicted Ruttie and the cultural norms of the time with elegance. The social life of Karachi, Bombay and Delhi are beaming with activity and strife. Ruttie and Jinnah’s marriage is caught in the cross fire of the freedom struggle. Ruttie’s mental condition got from bad to worse. Continuous arguments and asking for time turned into a daily activity. Jinnah failed to understand the plight of his bride wife. He could let his marriage and personal relations hold him back from the grand objective that he had set before him. Communal struggles and Hindu Muslim conflict on the brink in the 1920s and Jinnah was at the helm of the affairs. Ruttie was a warm personality and she needed her charming and attractive husband to be a part and parcel of what she wanted from life. She believed in living life to the fullest and fully attached to her feelings of love and romance. Jinnah could not provide to her needs and the marriage broke after ten agonizing years. Ruttie never cared much for daughter Dina and Jinnah finally got her admitted in a boarding school in London. Ruttie fell seriously ill and Jinnah rushed to her side but she had already lost hope. Her letters to Sarojini Naidu speak volumes of her loneliness. Repeated use of sleeping pills made her unstable and she died on her birthday 20th February, 1929 at the age of 29. It was the first time Jinnah showed tears in public at her funeral. In the sacrifices made to make Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the Quaid-e-Azam, Ruttie did per her part and gave it all she had. In later years, Jinnah was of the view that he should not have married her.

(The writer is Chairman of Jinnah Rafi Foundation)

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