Dina Wadia was born on midnight August 14/15, 1919, exactly twenty-seven years before the birth of Pakistan. A mere coincidence or a tryst with destiny, her birth one cannot be sure of but certainly it was one of these two things. Her mother Ratti, had her labour pains while attending the theatre with Jinnah, and she was rushed to the clinic for her daughter's birth. Thus, Dina reached the ripe age of 98 when she died in New York on Thursday, November 2, 2017 surrounded by her immediate family members including her son Nusli Wadia and daughter Diana Wadia and other close family members. Her funeral took place on November 3. Pakistan sent heartfelt condolences to the Wadia family and four messages along with four bouquets to the family signed by President Mamoon Hussain, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Foreign Minister Khwaja Asif and Ambassador Aziz Ahmed Chowdhury. Meantime, the chiefs of the three main political parties, PML-N, PPP and PTI and Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif condoled her death in their farewell messages.
Short in stature like her mother, Ratti, but sharp in her tongue like the Quaid, Dina Wadia more often than not displayed the Jinnah in her than Ratti. When her marriage proposal to Neville Wadia was proposed by Dina, according to Currim Chagla, then Jinnah's assistant and later India's Foreign Minister, Jinnah said that there were millions of Muslim boys in the subcontinent and asked Dina to choose one of them, the Jinnah in Dina shot back that there were millions of Muslim girls in the subcontinent, then why did he marry Ratti, a Parsi girl. Startled by her aggressive but logical response Jinnah however collected himself in good time and told her that Ratti had accepted Islam. After all "you can't argue with a woman, can you?," as Jinnah told Kanji Dwarkadas years ago after a meeting with the redoubtable Annie Besant, the theosophist.
Till Dina's marriage proposal broke out, Dina had the best of relations with her father. However, she was oft and anon ignored or neglected by her mother (Ratti) when the latter was obsessed with theosophy or politics. Jinnah has often been accused of neglecting Ratti, but he was forced to busy himself in taking up more and more briefs in order to pay for the Ratti's extravagance. While Jinnah was studying the briefs for the next day's court proceedings, Ratti would come up and sit on the top of the table and move her legs hither and thither asking him to take her to social gatherings. He could not possibly because he had to meet Ratti's extravagance all the time. Hence, if Jinnah had to neglect Ratti perforce, Dina was deliberately or otherwise neglected by Ratti. She left Dina behind when she took a trip to visit the arch - Theopriestess Annie Besant at Adyar, Madras, and on her trip to Hyderabad (Deccan) to meet Sarojini Naidu's family. Her neglect forced Dina to depend more and more on Mrs. De Mule's family, Ratti's mother and there she imbibed the Parsi ethos and cultural values. After Ratti Jinnah's death on Febraury 28, 1929, Fatimah Jinnah who took over Jinnah's household also took care of Dina. During Jinnah's self-exile in London at Heathrow Hearth, both Fatimah and Dina stayed with Jinnah. In 1932/33, Jinnah who had always been a great admirer of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk read his biography The Gray Wolf and liked it immensely. He tossed it on to Dina, recommending her to read it since it was good. Dina read it and began teasing Jinnah as the Gray Wolf, this indicates the sort of friendly relationship the father and daughter had while they were in England. They often went to theatres to see plays, to concerts and to picnics in Heathrow area. As against her mother who considered herself a fairy that had got dropped by the clouds above, Dina, had always had her feet on the ground. In her personal features as well, Dina looked like Jinnah rather than Ratti who, though, like Jinnah, beauty queen, was yet round and round all across her body.
Dina came back to India when Jinnah returned from his exile, finally in 1935 and Dina was lodged in Bombay. Because Fatimah Jinnah was in a sense jealous of Dina for her occupying such a crucial space in Jinnah's life, Dina again had to increasingly-depend on her mother's family and her Parsi relatives. There she met Neville Wadia, an outstanding Parsi industrialist in Bombay and fell in love with him. On the other side, this Dina-Wadia relationship hurt Jinnah the most but Dina stood her ground. If Jinnah had deprived the Parsi community of a Beauty Queen, the creme de la creme of their community, the Parsi community in turn had deprived Jinnah of his only daughter. Who stood high in his calculations; this was poetic justice, to call the least. Finally, Dina married Wadia at All Saint's Church in 1938. Despite the hurt that Jinnah felt at Dina's decision, he yet plucked up enough courage and affection to send the couple a bouquet at their marriage ceremony.
The much explosive marriage lasted only for a few years but the couple had two issues - one son, Nusli, and one daughter, Diana. Nusli got the inheritance from Wadia upon his death and both Nusli and Diana lived with their mother Dina. Except for some immediate years after the marriage, Dina had extremely affectionate relationship with her father. She sent him a sympathetic note when Jinnah was attacked by a Khaksar in Bombay in 1943 and sent him communications off and on. Along with her children she met Jinnah at tea in Bombay in May/June 1946 and Jinnah spent some time with the children. When Nusli showed an interest in Jinnah's cap, Jinnah gifted it to him saying "you can have it my boy." Dina also congratulated Jinnah when Partition was accepted and Jinnah in turn asked her to come and live in Pakistan.
However, Dina came to Pakistan only twice. First, she came on September 12, 1948, after Jinnah's death, and visited his grave along with Fatimah Jinnah. She was attired in a black sari and crying loudly. She left Pakistan soon after. It has not been possible to trace out the day and date when she left Pakistan. Dina associated herself with the centenary celebration of Quaid-e-Azam's birth at the United Nations, which was partly sponsored by UN Secretary General Dr Kurt Waldheim. The celebrations were also participated by Pakistan's Permanent Representative to the UN Iqbal A. Akhund.
Dina was invited to visit Pakistan several times but she resisted all the time if only because of her desire to acquire the Jinnah house at Bombay as her family property and a visit to Pakistan would jeopardise that claim. Of course, the Indian government refused to accede to Dina's request and the Jinnah house in Bombay continues to be under the Indian government.
Finally, she acceded to Pakistan's request for a visit at President Musharraf's invitation. She was invited to watch the India-Pakistan cricket match and visit Jinnah's mausoleum. She did come, along with Nusli Wadia and spent a busy time both at Lahore and at Karachi. She visited the Quaid's mausoleum and spent an hour at the Mazar. She placed bouquets both at Jinnah's grave and at Fatimah Jinnah's grave. "May his dreams come true" was her message to Pakistan as she penned it down in the Mausoleum's visitor's book.
The TV channels and the newspapers focused attention on Dina's life and death in various segments and features. All said and done, the Pakistanis sole prayers are she rest in peace - R.I.P.
(The writer is HEC Distinguished National Professor, who has recently co-edited UNESCO's History of Humanity, vol. VI, and The Jinnah Anthology (2010) and edited In Quest of Jinnah (2007); the only oral history on Pakistan's Founding Father.)
Copyright Business Recorder, 2017