Ruttie & Jinnah – A remarkable story of love
After his return to India Jinnah chose Bombay for his residence since he no longer had any interest in Karachi after the demise of his mother and his wife. His father joined him there and died in Bombay on the 17th of April 1902, soon after Jinnah had started his political career.
In the next two decades after his return from London, Jinnah established himself first as a lawyer and then as a politician. Devoted completely to his work he sailed between England and India and from one stage of his political career to the next.
Jinnah vacationed in the north in Darjeeling in 1916, staying at the summer home of his friend Sir Dinshaw Manockjee Petit, the son of one of the richest and most devoutly orthodox Parsi of the nineteenth century. It was in that summer that he met Dinshaw's only daughter Ratanbai. Born on February 20, 1900, Ratanbai, or Rutti as she used to be called, was a charming child. '…Precociously bright, gifted in every art, beautiful in everyway. 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' - Stanley Wolpert, Jinnah of Pakistan.
She was sixteen at that time and Jinnah was about forty. He was enamored by her beauty and charm and she was awe struck by Jay, as she called him. Jinnah spoke to Sir Dinshaw about inter-communal marriages, to which his friend had replied that he was not opposed to them. When Jinnah put forth his offer of a marriage proposal for his daughter Ruttie, Sir Dinshaw was taken aback. He refused bluntly and said there was no chance of his ever agreeing to such a thing. That was the end of their friendship as Sir Dinshaw never gave in. He forbade Ruttie to meet Jinnah while she lived in his house. The couple patiently waited for two years required for Ruttie to come of age. In February 1918 Ruttie turned 18 and was free to marry. On April 18, 1918 Ruttie converted to Islam at Calcutta's Jamia Mosque. On April 19, 1918 Jinnah and Ruttie married at a quiet ceremony at Jinnah's house in Bombay. Ruttie was given an Islamic name Mariam when she converted to Islam and married Jinnah. The Raja Sahib of Muhamdabad and a few friends attended the wedding. The wedding ring that Jinnah presented to Ruttie was a gift from the Raja. Nobody from Ruttie's family attended the wedding.
The first few years of their marriage were a dream for both of them. They were a head- turning couple; he in his elegant suits, stitched in London, she with her long, flowing hair decked in flowers. There was no limit to their joy and satisfaction at that time. Their only woe was Ruttie's complete isolation and ostracism from her family.
Jinnah's political life began to take its toll on his time in 1922. His heavy work schedule did not allow him to spend enough time with his young and vibrant wife. Though she was supportive of his work, the element of his lack of time was taxing for her. She could not lure him away from his work. She was engulfed with feelings of desolation. By September of 1922 she packed her bags and took their only daughter Dina with her to London.
Though her heart was still set on life with Jinnah, she could not accommodate herself to his busy schedule. From London she wrote a letter to her friend Kanji in India in which she said: '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 .'
When she returned from England, the couple tried to give their marriage another chance, but Jinnah was involved in campaigning for elections as an independent Muslim for the general Bombay seat. Jinnah was to undergo a five-month tour to Europe and North America. He decided to take Ruttie along as an attempt to save their failing marriage. But in this trip the rift grew. There was no chance of reconciliation and in January 1928 the couple separated.
Ruttie lived at the Taj Mahal Hotel in Bombay, almost as a recluse, her health failing drastically. On February 20, 1929, Ruttie Jinnah died. It was her 29th birthday.
She was buried two days later in Bombay according to Muslim rites. Jinnah sat like a stone statue throughout the funeral. But when asked to be the first to throw earth on the grave as the closest relative, Jinnah broke down and wept uncontrollably. Later Justice Chagla said, 'That was the only time when I found Jinnah betraying any shadow of human weakness.
Jinnah had been good to his wife. He had been a doting husband, fulfilling the demands of his young and enthusiastic wife. She also, had played her part justly, had supported him and encouraged him in his career. But the lack of time fatefully pulled them so far apart that eventually no reconciliation was possible. The time of their separation was a trying one for Jinnah, in the photographs of this period he is never seen smiling.
Ruttie’s Letter to Jinnah (Courtesey: Ghulam Nabi Kazi)
Ruttie originally wrote this letter in Paris on October 5, 1928 but re-wrote it in Marseilles and posted it from there. The letter is beautifully written and gives you some idea of marriage and personal life of Jinnah.
S. S. Rajputana, Marseilles5 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.
1. Ruttie Jinnah; The Story Told and Untold, Khwaja Razi Haider. Pakistan Study Center (University of Karachi), 2004 ISBN# 969-8791-91-9
2. Roses in December; M. C. Chagla, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1973 ASIN: B0006CDJBE
3. Ruttie Jinnah; The Story of great friendship, Kanji Dwarkadas, 1963 ASIN: B0007JQ2VU
By 1927, Ruttie and Jinnah had virtually separated. Ruttie’s health deteriorated rapidly in the years after they returned from their final trip together. 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 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. 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.”