By Reginald Massey
The death of Dina Wadia on November 2 at the age of 98 closes an era so far as Pakistan is concerned. She was the only child of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the creator of Pakistan, and the ravishingly attractive Rattanbai ‘Ruttie’ Petit the only child of the Parsi industrialist and philanthropist Sir Dinshaw Petit, the Bombay based baronet. Socially the Petits moved in the highest circles in Bombay, London and Paris. The brilliant barrister Jinnah was soon noticed in the Bombay High Court and Petit often invited Jinnah to Petit Hall. Jinnah fell in love with Ruttie, then only sixteen, and she too responded enthusiastically. But the course of love is strewn with difficulties. Jinnah was much older than Ruttie, and she was not an adult. Moreover, Jinnah was a Shia Muslim of the Ismaili sect (though not a practising one) and Ruttie was a Zoroastrian (also not a practising one). Nowadays marriages across religious and caste lines do happen in India but at that time they were unheard of.
Hence when Jinnah asked Petit for his daughter’s hand Petit was furious. But the lovers knew the law. They waited till Ruttie was eighteen when she didn’t have to seek the baronet’s permission. Ruttie left home, converted to Islam and married Jinnah. Husband and wife then moved to Jinnah’s palatial home in London’s Hampstead where their daughter Dina was born on the night of August 14 – 15, in 1919. By an odd coincidence Pakistan (Jinnah’s second child) was proclaimed on the same night in 1947.
Jinnah was so tied up with his work that Ruttie felt neglected. She became depressed and reclusive and spent a lot of time with her pet cats. She developed cancer and though Jinnah sent her to the best specialists she passed away. She was then only twenty-nine. Dina was then brought up by Jinnah’s sister Fatima. But revengeful history was about to repeat itself. Dina fell in love with Neville Wadia, a Christian from the famous family of Parsi shipbuilders. Jinnah by then the Quaid-e-Azam (Supreme Leader) of the Muslim League made it plain to Dina that if she married Wadia he would have nothing to do with her. But his daughter, like her mother, married the man she loved. She and Neville were married in a Bombay church.
With the creation of Pakistan, Jinnah and his sister moved to Karachi but Dina and her husband decided to live in India. Jinnah, a drained and exhausted man ravaged by years of heavy smoking, died in 1948. Dina did attend his funeral but received a less than warm reception in the country her father had created. She was, after all, the errant daughter. In 2004 she visited Pakistan on the invitation of the country’s military dictator General Musharraf (ostensibly to see a Pakistan – India cricket match) and she also visited her father’s mausoleum in Karachi. In the visitor’s book she wrote: “May his dream for Pakistan come true.”
She had chosen her words carefully. Jinnah was against military rule, against social and religious discrimination, against theocracy and against corruption in any shape or form. But what she saw flourishing was all that Jinnah abhorred and detested. His dream had not been achieved.
Her son Nusli Wadia heads the Wadia Group in India. Nusli’s sons Ness and Jeh are also successful entrepreneurs. The Bollywood actress Preity Zinta who was once wooed by Ness Wadia records her memories of Dina Wadia in the most complimentary terms. May Jinnah’s estranged daughter now rest in peace.
Pictures: Courtesy of National Archives, Pakistan