The death of Dina Wadia on 2nd November 2017 came as a sad shock to the entire nation of Pakistan. She was the only child of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan. When people think of Dina Wadia, it is not her legacy or her bold choices that comes to mind. It is, in fact, the estrangement from her father and the cause behind it that many people still talk about. Dina Wadia was born in London moments after the midnight of August 14th, on the morning of 15th August 1919, to Muhammad Ali Jinnah and his wife, Rattan Bai Petit, later known as Maryam Jinnah.
As a premature baby, her birth came as a surprise to Jinnah and his wife who were at the cinema watching a movie at the time. Dina was known to have features similar to her mother. Her smile being the most similar to her mothers’. Dina was raised as a Muslim, as her mother, born a Parsi, renounced her faith and accepted Islam when she married Jinnah. After the death of his wife, Jinnah found comfort in his daughter. Her aunt Fatima Jinnah came to live with Jinnah after Maryam’s death and Jinnah asked his sister to teach Dina about Islam.
Dina Jinnah often stated that she never had a good relationship with her aunt, Fatima, and blames her for not having a healthy relationship with her father as a child. Even though Jinnah adored his daughter, the father-daughter relationship was strained due to him being busy with work and politics and Dina being away at school. Dina’s education took place between Mumbai and London during which she rarely got to spend time with her father. However, Jinnah pampered his daughter and was a doting father throughout her childhood, especially after his wife’s death. Due to Jinnah’s fondness towards the biography of Kemal Atatürk by H.C. Armstrong, Dina nicknamed him Grey Wolf after the title of the book.
When people think of Dina Wadia, it is not her legacy or her bold choices that comes to mind. It is, in fact, the estrangement from her father Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
Although Dina and her father shared a strained but loving relationship during her childhood, it wasn’t until Dina expressed her desire to marry a non-Muslim man that their relationship finally shattered. Dina’s wish to marry Neville Wadia, a Parsi, was denied by her father on the basis of him not being a Muslim to which Dina replied that her mother, his wife, was also a Parsi. Jinnah countered that even if that were true, in order for her to marry him, she had to convert to Islam, which Neville Wadia didn’t.
Although Jinnah tried everything in his power to dissuade Dina, she eventually married him against her fathers’ wishes. The marriage resulted in Jinnah disowning his only child; although no legal notice of her disownment was issued. Both Jinnah and Dina’s relationship suffered due to this marriage and although they did share many letters after her marriage, their relationship became very formal and they only met at social gatherings where Jinnah would address his only daughter as ‘Mrs. Wadia’.
It is believed that Jinnah invited Dina to join him in Pakistan after independence but due to her husband and in-laws residing in Mumbai, she refused his offer and decided to stay in Mumbai after the partition of the subcontinent. This deeply hurt Jinnah and even though Dina tried to visit her father several times after the partition, a grief-stricken Jinnah wouldn’t allow her a visa to visit him in Pakistan.
Dina’s marriage to Neville ended in 1943, just 5 years later. Although they never divorced, they remained separated for the rest of their lives. They had 2 children, a boy, Nusli, and a girl, Diana, both of whom were raised with no bounds to religion.
She fiercely fought for what she believed belonged to her. Dina was a woman renounced by her own family for the choices she made.
In all of her life, Dina has only visited Pakistan twice, the first of which was on 9th September 1948 for her father’s funeral. She was invited by Liaqat Ali Khan and a plane was chartered from Karachi to Mumbai for her. She was seen mourning next to her aunt Fatima Jinnah at her father’s funeral and left immediately after it.
Her second visit happened decades later in March 2004 to watch a cricket match between Pakistan and India in Lahore. During this stay, Dina, along with her son, Nusli, and her grandsons, Ness and Jahangir, visited the mausoleum of her father. It is believed that she asked for several copies of the photographs that were in the antiquities room of the mausoleum; one of her father, one of her mother and one where Dina was standing with her aunt and father. She also went to the tomb of Fatima Jinnah to pay respects to her aunt. She also visited Flagstaff House and her father’s home, Wazir Mansion.
Dina, the only child of Jinnah was unable to inherit any property of her father in Pakistan because according to Muslim law, she broke the Islamic law by marrying a non-Muslim and thus was ineligible to claim any property in Pakistan as hers. Jinnah built himself a house during the formation of Pakistan in Mumbai and named it South Court which was designed by a British architect, Claude Batley. In 2007, Dina demanded that the house in Mumbai be handed to her, claiming that Hindu Law should be applicable to her father as he was a Khoja, Shia. She fiercely fought for what she believed belonged to her.
Dina was a woman renounced by her own family for the choices she made. Not only that, she often faced humiliation in India for being Jinnah’s Daughter. While on the other side of the border, in Pakistan, she was considered a traitor by many for choosing to stay in India instead. She lived her entire life torn between two countries and the people she loved and finally died in New York at her home at the age of 98 on November 2nd, 2017 due to pneumonia. Dina is survived by her children, Nusli and Diana, and her grandsons, Ness and Jahangir Wadia.
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