With the death of Dina Wadia at the age of 98, a chapter of Pakistan’s founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s life has come to an end. Dina was his only child. But the relations between Pakistan’s founder and his daughter were riven by Jinnah’s politics for much of their lives. Jinnah, who had married a Parsi, could never reconcile to his daughter for marrying outside Islam. Jinnah reportedly admonished his daughter after her marriage to Paris businessman Neville Wadia and told her that she could have chosen anyone of the millions of Muslim boys in India. Dina retorted, “There were millions of Muslim girls in India, why did you marry my mother then?”
Dina’s life mirrored the many faultlines that came to characterise Jinnah’s political career. Her mother was Ruttie Petit, who died young. After his wife’s death, Jinnah became increasingly orthodox and preoccupied with his mission to create Pakistan. The child of an inter-religious wedlock, Dina was to become a close witness to her father’s transformation from a champion of Hindu-Muslim unity to the spearhead of the Pakistan movement. Father and daughter did get back on speaking terms, a few years after Dina’s marriage and Dina even wrote her father a congratulatory letter after Pakistan was created. But a daughter who had married outside Islam was too much of an embarrassment for Quaid-e-Azam, who forbade Dina from visiting Pakistan, even when he was grievously ill. Dina visited the country her father had created only after his death in 1948.
Jinnah’s politics that foregrounded religious identity in the making of a nation lost him his daughter. In his last days, he is said to have longed for the house he built in Bombay and willed to his sister, Fatima. Dina battled unsuccessfully to regain the house, which had been confiscated as enemy property. She, like many others, had lost her home to Partition.