• 11 Nov - 17 Nov, 2017
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Obituary

Be it for her style of speaking or the perfectionism she showcased in her dressing, Dina Wadia’s features struck a resemblance to that of her “Darling Papa”. She was born around midnight of August 14-15, 1919 in a cinema theatre in London where Muhammad Ali Jinnah was watching a movie with his wife, Rattanbai Jinnah. Stanley Wolpert, a renowned American academic and historian mentions in his biography, Jinnah of Pakistan (1982), "Oddly enough, precisely 28 years to the day and hour before the birth of Jinnah's other offspring, Pakistan", Dina was born.

It was on November 2, 2017 that Jinnah’s only child, passed away at the age of 98 in New York reportedly due to pneumonia. The lady who enjoyed privacy, married Neville Wadia, the only son of Sir Ness and Lady Wadia, on November 16, 1938 – who was born a Parsi but later converted to Christianity – at the All Saint’s Church on Malabar Hill. After her marriage, Dina decided to stay back in Bombay. Quaid-e-Azam was against his daughter’s marriage to a non-Muslim and Dina’s marriage to Neville led to a breach between the father and daughter. 

The Quaid did not attend Dina’s wedding. When she confronted her father over the fact that her mother too was a Parsi, she was told that there were millions of Muslim boys in India, and she could have anyone she chose. Mahommedali Currim Chagla, who was Jinnah's assistant at that time, quoted her conversation as, "Father, there were millions of Muslim girls in India. Why did you not marry one of them?" To this, Mr Jinnah's response was, "She became a Muslim".

(L-R) Muhammad Ali Jinnah with Dina & Liaquat Ali Khan with his wife

The only daughter of Jinnah and Ruttie, Dina was neglected so much so that she wasn’t named for many years. Sheela Reddy writes in her book, Mr and Mrs Jinnah: The Marriage that Shook India, that Dina named herself after her grandmother, with whom she shared a close bond.

Neville succeeded his father’s business and became the chairman of Bombay Dyeing, one of India's largest producers of textiles. However, Dina and Neville separated a few years later. They had two children, daughter, Diana Wadia and son, Nusli Wadia. Dina is survived by her children and grandsons, Ness and Jeh Wadia and two great grandchildren, Jah and Ella Wadia. Nusli, in 2008, is quoted to have said, talking about the strong bond he shared with his mother,“I speak to my mother once a day every day no matter where I am… I don’t think there is any mother-son relationship in the world as close as ours.”

Dina with her father Muhammad Ali Jinnah

According to Andrew Whitehead, who served as a BBC correspondent and is now a historian and lecturer, who met Dina at Madison Avenue, “On her desk was a photo of her father. She spoke of her pride in Jinnah. Yes, they had quarrelled over her marriage to Neville Wadia… but they made up, and often spoke and wrote to each other. She says her father rang her from Delhi to say "We've got it!" when he won the Muslim League's demand for Pakistan. Her own temperament and personality, she reckoned, came more from her father than her mother.”

Dina never settled in Pakistan, instead she spent much time in New York and London. It was in 1948 when Quaid-e-Azam passed away that Dina visited the nation which her father founded, for the first time. On two more occasions she came to Pakistan: one was to visit Fatima Jinnah and the other was in 2004 for a cricket match held between Pakistan and India.

“She was invited many times by Benazir Bhutto and others, but had persistently refused – she didn't want to be used as a mascot. She complained of leaders who had "robbed" the country and warned that democracy hadn't flourished in any Muslim country.”

She would call her father Grey Wolf, after the Turkish revolutionary leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. The father and daughter’s relation did turn better after she separated from Neville, and after Pakistan emerged on the world map, Dina would write letters to her father. In April 1947, for instance, she wrote:

Dina (extreme left) with Fatima Jinnah on her father’s funeral

My darling Papa,
First of all, I must congratulate you – we have got Pakistan, that is to say the principal has been accepted. I am so proud and happy for you – how hard you have worked for it.

I do hope you are keeping well – I get lots of news of you from the newspapers. The children are just recovering from whooping cough, it will take another month yet. I am taking them to Juhu on Thursday for a month or so. Are you coming back here? If so, I hope you will drive out to Juhu and spend the day, if you like. Anyway, I have a phone, so I will ring you up and drive in to see you if you don’t feel like coming out. Take care of yourself Papa darling. Lots of love & kisses, Dina.

However, much before he died in September 1948, their relationship had been exhausted. When Dina wanted to visit Pakistan on hearing that her father was critically ill, he refused her a visa and she could go to Pakistan only after his funeral. The next time she would visit the country was 56 years later.

In the meantime, back in India, she’d fight the government over Jinnah’s Mumbai bungalow, South Court on Malabar Hill, deemed an “evacuee property” and fit to be confiscated because her father had not named her his heir. She pleaded to be allowed to stay at the house where she spent her younger days. But, it was never to be. She penned a letter to former Indian Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, in 2007 in which she said, “It is now almost 60 years since my father’s death and I have been deprived of my house where I grew up and lived until I married. I request you return it to me”, however she wasn’t granted this wish.