Ruttie Jinnah’s biography - a story of love and pathos
Ruttenbai "Ruttie" Petit ("The Flower of Bombay") after marriage Maryam Jinnah (February 20, 1900 - February 15, 1929), was the second wife of Muhammad Ali Jinnah - an important figure in the Indian Independence Movement and later founder of Pakistan. She was the only daughter of Sir Dinshaw Petit, who in turn, was the son of Dinshaw Maneckji Petit, founder of the first cotton mills in India. The Petits were textile magnates and one of Bombay's wealthiest Parsi families.
"Ruttie" as she was affectionately called, was bright, gifted and graceful. Although she was 16 the year she met Mohammad Ali Jinnah, she was intellectually much more mature than other girls her age. She had diverse interests ranging from romantic poetry to politics. With her maiden aunt she attended all public meetings held in Bombay and was familiar with the movement for swaraj (home-rule). She was a fierce supporter of India for Indians and many years later when asked about rumours of Jinnah's possible knighthood and whether she would like to be Lady Jinnah, she snapped that she would rather be separated from her husband than take on an English title.
In the summer of 1916, Jinnah was invited to escape the Bombay heat at the summer home of his client and friend Sir Dinshaw. There, in Darjeeling, Jinnah was enchanted with Ruttie's precocious intelligence and beauty, and she in turn was enamoured by J, as she called him.
mr Jinnah with some parsi friends in Bombay
Jinnah approached Sir Dinshaw with a seemingly abstract question about his views on inter-communal marriages. Sir Dinshaw emphatically expressed his opinion that it would be an ideal solution to inter-communal antagonism. Jinnah could not have hoped for a more favourable response, and immediately asked his friend for his daughter's hand in marriage.
M. C. Chagla, who was assisting Jinnah at his chambers in those days, recalled later, "Sir Dinshaw was taken aback. He had not realized that his remarks might have serious personal repercussions. He was most indignant, and refused to countenance any such idea which appeared to him absurd and fantastic."
Jinnah pleaded his case, but to no avail. Not only was this the end of the friendship between the two men, but Sir Dinshaw forbade Ruttie to meet Jinnah as long as she lived under his roof. As she was still a minor, the law was on his side but Ruttie and Jinnah met in secret anyway, and decided to wait out the two years until she attained the age of maturity.
Shortly after her eighteenth birthday, Rattanbai 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.
Ruttie and Jinnah made a head-turning couple. Her long hair would be decked in fresh flowers, and she wore vibrant silk and headbands lavish with diamonds, rubies and emeralds. And Jinnah in those days was the epitome of elegance in suits custom-made for him in London. According to most sources, the couple could not have been happier in those early years of their marriage. The only blot on their joy was Ruttie's ostracism from her family. Sir Dinshaw mourned Ruttie socially even after his granddaughter Dina was born.
By mid-1922, Jinnah was facing political isolation as he devoted every spare moment to be the voice of moderation in a nation torn by Hindu-Muslim antipathy. The increasingly late hours and the ever-increasing distance between them left Ruttie isolated.
In September 1922, she packed her bags and took her daughter to London. The echoes of her loneliness are apparent in a letter which she sent to her friend Kanji, thanking him for the bouquet of roses he had sent as a bon voyage gift; It will always give me pleasure to hear from you, so if you have a superfluous moment on your hands you know where to find me if I don't lose myself. And just one thing more, go and see Jinnah and tell me how he is, he has a habit of overworking himself and now that I am not there to tease and bother him he will be worse than ever.
Upon her return to India, Ruttie tried to see more of her husband but he was too busy campaigning for elections as an independent for the general Bombay seats. Ruttie withdrew into a world of spirits, séances and mysticism. Although she tried to interest Jinnah in the metaphysical, he had little time to devote to the whims of a wife half his age.
In 1925, Jinnah was appointed to a subcommittee to study the possibility of establishing a military college like Sandhurst in India. For this purpose he was to undertake a five-month tour of Europe and North America. Jinnah decided to take Ruttie with him - on what he hoped would be a second honeymoon. Instead the trip simply magnified the growing personal gulf between them. By 1927, Ruttie and Jinnah had virtually separated, and the move of the Muslim League's office to Delhi was just the final blow to a relationship that was already, in essence, over.
Ruttie's health deteriorated rapidly in the years after they returned from their final trip together. But she kept her interest in her pets and her close friends. Even as a frail, weakened woman, Ruttie attempted to remain in touch with those around her, going so far as to travel in bedroom slippers even though her feet were swollen and painful. Later she decided to live alone.
Ruttie lived at the Taj Hotel in Bombay, almost a recluse as she became more and more bed-ridden. Kanji continued to be her constant companion. By February 18, 1929 she had become so weak that all she could manage to say to him was a request to look after her cats. Two days later, Ruttie Petit Jinnah died. It was her 29th birthday. She was buried on February 22 in Khoja Isna Ashari Cemetery, Mazgaon, Bombay according to Muslim rites. Jinnah sat like a statue throughout the funeral but when asked to throw earth on the grave, he broke down and wept.
Later, Chagla said, "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."
daughter Dina Wadia, a rare photograph
Merely sixteen when she met Jinnah, Ruttie was a charming young girl. Stanley Wolpert writes in Jinnah of Pakistan : “Precociously bright, gifted in every art, beautiful in every way. As she matured, all of her talents, gifts and beauty were magnified in so delightful and unaffected a manner that she seemed a fairy princess”.
Nikahnama marriage certificate
a letter by ruttie to jinnah
S. S. Rajputana,
Marseilles 5 Oct 1928
Darling thank you for all you have done. If ever in my bearing your once tuned senses found any irritability or unkindness, be assured that in my heart there was place only for a great tenderness and a greater pain -a pain my love without hurt. When one has been as near to the reality of Life (which after all is Death) as I have been dearest, one only remembers the beautiful and tender moments and all the rest becomes a half veiled mist of unrealities. Try and remember me beloved as the flower you plucked and not the flower you tread upon.
I have suffered much sweetheart because I have loved much. The measure of my agony has been in accord to the measure of my love.
Darling I love you, I love you – and had I loved you just a little less I might have remained with you only after one has created a very beautiful blossom one does not drag it through the mire. The higher you set your ideal the lower it falls.
I have loved you my darling as it is given to few men to be loved. I only beseech you that the tragedy which commenced in love should also end with it.
Darling Goodnight and Goodbye
I had written to you at Paris with the intention of posting the letter here but I felt that I would rather write to you afresh from the fullness of my heart. R.
Ruttie Jinnah:the story of a great friendship
Ruttie and Jinnah
By Khwaja Razi Haider.
Oxford University Press, Karachi.
Pages XIV+118. Rs 595.
Ruttie belonged to a distinguished aristocratic Parsi family of Bombay. Her father, Sir Dinshaw Monockjee Petit Bart (1873-1933), a fabulously rich textile magnet, was Jinnah’s close friend. In the summer of 1916, when Ruth was 16, Jinnah accompanied Sir Dinshaw’s family to Darjeeling for a two-month holiday.
In Darjeeling, Ruttie’s alluring beauty, her sparkling intelligence, vivacity, and uninhibited laughter cast a spell on Jinnah. Later, Jinnah’s proposal to Sir Dinshaw for marrying his daughter infuriated him. Jinnah was more than twice Ruttie’s age, about 41 years old. On her 18th birthday, Juliet like, Ruttie left her parents to join Jinnah. She was married under Muslim rites on April 19, 1918, at Jinnah’s spacious house ‘South Court’ on the Mount Pleasant Road atop Malabar Hill in Bombay. Jinnah gave his wife a marriage gift of Rs 125,000. The Parsi community was outraged at Ruttie’s marriage to Jinnah. Sir Dinshaw did not attend her marriage nor her funeral in February 1929.
Sarojini Naidu, a close friend of Jinnah and Ruttie was regarded as the "Nightingale of Bombay", and Ruttie the "Flower of Bombay". On Ruttie’s marriage, Sarojini Naidu quipped that a "blue flower Jinnah has plucked". The Raja of Mahmudabad called Rutti "a fairy of Koh-i-Qaaf". Dewan Chaman Lal, a Panjabi aristocrat, a legal luminary and flirtatious adventurer extremely popular with upper-class woman said lyrically after Ruttie’s death, "there is not a women in the world to hold a candle to her (Ruttie) for beauty and charm".
Endowed with artistic sensibility, Ruttie was a highly sophisticated women, full of life, pulsating with fiery passions in her veins. She would radiate her charm and regale her elitist circle of friends with her flashes of wit and quick repartee. She was as much European in taste and style as her smartly dressed Saville Row and suede shoe-wearing tall, handsome husband, puffing his pipe with puckered sense of concentration.
Jinnah had married first in 1892 when he was a school-going boy. His wife died, and thereafter he led the life of a recluse till he met Ruttie. When married, Jinnah was already acknowledged as a leading barrister in Bombay. He was a member of the Viceroy’s executive council and president of the Bombay Branch of the Home Rule League. Acknowledged as an ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity for the Lucknow Pact (1916), he won plaudits in political circles, though the pact was essentially communal, making separate electorate a constitutional right of the Muslim community, which subsequently opened the door to the partition of India in 1947. The Lucknow Pact shows Jinnah truly in his sectarian colours which historians generally ignore.
Jinnah and Ruttie spent their honeymoon in Nainital. With her artistic skill, Ruttie renovated her bungalow. The couple moved in the highest official and political circles, including the viceroys and governors. Gandhiji advised Ruttie to wear khadi and speak in Gujrati. The author twists Gandhiji’s proposal as a cunning device on his part to wreck Jinnah’s marriage, which is absurd. Gandhiji was exhorting his compatriots with passionate zeal to do the same.
The author cites an incident showing Jinnah’s high sense of self-respect. Jinnah and his wife were invited for supper by the Governor of Bombay, Lord Wellingdon. For the occasion, Ruttie wore a low-cut evening gown. Seeing it, Lady Willingdon asked an ADC to bring Mrs Jinnah a wrap. Jinnah retorted that if Mrs Jinnah needed a wrap, she would ask for it; and, instantly, escorted his wife out of the Government House. Haidar shows how in recognition of Jinnah’s bold agitation against a farewell meeting held in honour of Lord Willingdon, the citizens of Bombay built the Jinnah Memorial Hall in the Congress compound.
In the last section of his book, Haider explains the reason for the collapse of Jinnah’s marriage. According to the writer, the reason for the tragic end were the temperamental and age difference between Jinnah and Ruttie. This explanation is simplistic. It is clear in the light of scant evidence that Jinnah and Ruttie began to drift apart nearly six years after their marriage. The passionate sensual glow of the conjugal partnership wore off in the dailiness of dreary life.
A hard-faced private person, dry, dour, cold and calculating, Jinnah was a formidable personality wrapped in public life to the exclusion of all other interests. On the contrary, Rutti was an extrovert, cherishing her dreams and fantasies, and moving with gusto in a wide circle of the high-class sophisticated Bombay society. It was natural, indeed, that Jinnah’s icy aloofness and autocratic temper would suffocate Ruttee. Something snapped within her. What could she do? Poor, Ruttie! Where to go? She left her life empty! Vijaylakshmi Pandit wrote that she needed "liberation". Ruttie began to be haunted by insomnia and hallucinations. She sought solace in telepathy, s`E9ances and clairvoyance. When Jinnah’s daughter, Dina wanted to marry a Parsi youth, Nevile Wadia, Jinnah warned, "You will cease to be my daugther".
When Ruttie was lying dangerously ill in the Champs Elysee clinic, Bombay, Dewan Chaman Lal made a special effort to patch up differences between Jinnah and Ruttie, but he failed. Ruttie died in the Taj Mahal Hotel on her 29th birthday in 1929. She was buried at the Khoja cemetery of Mazagaon in Bombay according to Muslim rites. M. C. Chagla wrote that at her burial, Jinnah was discussing his own political activities. In Jinnah’s political vocabulary and in her social relationship, the word "compromise"never existed. He must settle issues on his own terms.