Jinnah could be kind to children. His reserved nature probably prevented him from making physical gestures of warmth and his affection may have been imbued with sternness. That he was devoted to his daughter, Dina, is borne out in all accounts of his life. She grew up in his homes in London and Bombay where she spent time also with her mother’s family, particularly with her indulgent grandmother. Jinnah denied Dina nothing, just as he had denied nothing to his wife, Ruttie. In London, she would coax him away from his briefs and persuade him to take her to pantomimes. She would lovingly address him as ‘Grey Wolf’ after the biography of Kemal Ataturk which he had urged her to read.
Despite his unhappiness with her marriage to a Christian, the bond between them remained strong. In her letters to Jinnah, written on the eve of Partition, Dina addresses her father as ‘Darling Papa’. The contents of the letters, apart from her concern about the sale of South Court as his house on Malabar Hill was known, are full of mundane matters which she apparently felt confident enough to write about. There is no record of how frequently she and her children met him as he fought for time, grappling with his frequent ‘breakdowns’ and ‘self-imposed’ burden of work. Jahanara Shahnawaz recalled, however, how Jinnah was the heart and soul of one of her parties, regaling the guests with stories about his grandsons. The Raja of Mahmudabad first met Jinnah as a child when he and Ruttie stopped at Qaiser Bagh during their honeymoon.
Jinnah was at the peak of his fame as a nationalist leader and Ruttie was at the height of her dazzling beauty. Mahmudabad’s description of Ruttie’s loveliness, as he gazed at her at the age of five, has remained the singular tribute to her beauty. A few years later, he was reduced to tears when Jinnah questioned him and then ticked him off for saying he was a Muslim first and an Indian second. Mahmudabad had been truthful to his upbringing and inclination but Jinnah admonished him: ‘No my boy, you are Indian first, and Muslim later.’
Much water had flowed under the bridges of India’s politics when Iqbal Quadir and his little sister, Khalda, decided to call on Jinnah. (Iqbal Quadir later became Vice-Chief of the Naval Staff in Pakistan.) It was the summer of 1946. By then, Jinnah was the acclaimed leader of Muslim India and the hero of Muslim children who walked in processions and joined in chanting the stirring Muslim League slogans. Iqbal was 14 years old and was studying at Harcourt Butler. Khalda was studying at St. Thomas School in Simla.
Five years earlier, when Iqbal was only nine, his father, who worked for the Forest Department, took him to a public meeting addressed by Jinnah at Ram Lila ground between old and new Delhi. Iqbal remembers the huge pandal and the mammoth gathering of one lakh people. He reckons that 99 per cent of the people in the crowd did not speak English but Jinnah addressed them only in English. Iqbal and his father sat about 100 yards from the pandal so they could easily see the elegant gestures Jinnah made with his hands as he mesmerized the audience into pin drop silence.
In his speech, Jinnah gave the reasons why Pakistan was imperative, and dwelt on the differences between Muslim and Hindu cultures which had remained divergent all along. He referred to the outcome of the elections of 1937 and how the Congress had thrown away the agreement on power-sharing with the Muslim League in UP. Soon after the war ended, India would get independence and the Muslims must, therefore, work to safeguard their interests in the future. Jinnah’s speech left a lasting effect on young Iqbal’s mind.
All the prominent Indian leaders came to Simla in the summer of 1946. Gandhi’s procession came into Simla from Balluganj, where the railway ended, one hour before Jinnah’s. The remaining distance had to be covered either in rickshaws or on foot. Iqbal and his father went to receive Jinnah and, a couple of days later, Iqbal and little Khalda decided to call on their leader at Cecil Hotel. On their father’s advice, they bought garlands of flowers for Jinnah on the way. In the posh hotel, they were helped by Bhulabhai Desai who advised them not to go to the reception desk and showed them the way to Jinnah’s rooms, suggesting that they should try to avoid the room of K.H. Khurshid, who was Jinnah’s secretary.
However, they tiptoed to Khurshid’s room and found him writing. He spotted them and asked: ‘Are you carrying a bomb?’ (Since the Khaksar’s attack on Jinnah, Khurshid was wary). ‘No’, replied the children, ‘only flowers.’ Khurshid told them Jinnah was busy and could not see them; he was to be in a working committee meeting in ten minutes’ time. He asked them to leave the flowers and go away. The children were pleading that they had walked for three miles only to see Jinnah personally, when the door of the adjoining room opened and Jinnah appeared, smartly dressed in trousers and shirt, holding his galluses with his thumbs. He asked Khurshid to postpone the working committee meeting for half an hour, wore his jacket and putting his arms around their shoulders, brought them down to the lounge.
In the lounge, Jinnah ordered tea and cakes. He enquired about their schools and looking at their little parcel asked:
Haven’t you got anything for me?
The garlands which the children had brought with them had become entangled. Jinnah disentangled the garlands and handed them back saying:
Now you can garland me.
He spoke to them about how important it was to create Pakistan and how necessary it was for Muslim children to get educated because there would be a great shortage of experienced and educated people in Pakistan. Half an hour passed too soon for Iqbal and his sister, as Jinnah walked with them to the end of the lounge. The children became instant heroes among their family and friends.