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As Jaswant book uncovers heat,quiet stands Jinnah house

While BJP offices saw a lot of heat and dust after senior leader Jaswant Singh was expelled on Wednesday for praising Mohammed Ali Jinnah in his book...

Written by Chinki Sinha | New Delhi |
August 20, 2009 12:29:23 am

While BJP offices saw a lot of heat and dust after senior leader Jaswant Singh was expelled on Wednesday for praising Mohammed Ali Jinnah in his book,the house on Aurangzeb Road where the Pakistani statesman once lived seemed to be in another planet,quiet in its own corner.

It is at 10-Aurangzeb Road that Jinnah held his last press conference in 1947 before leaving for Pakistan.

Sixty-two years on,the exterior remains unchanged,the white walls spotless and lawns carefully manicured — as it must have been when Jinnah lived here with his sister Fatima,who came to stay with him after his wife Rutti died.

It is now the residence of the Netherlands ambassador.

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Jinnah bought the Edwin Lutyens-designed house in 1938 from Bisakha Singh and later sold it to close friend and industrialist Ramkrishna Dalmia for Rs 3 lakhs before he left for Pakistan.

Dalmia lived in it for a brief time and sold it to the Dutch embassy after he fell on hard times.

Old-timers like author and journalist Inder Malhotra say the house was remodelled several times,including once when former Pakistan President Zia-ul-Haq visited the house. Malhotra,who said he has been inside the house on several occasions,said the library has not been touched,though many books have been added to it.

At the bungalow,the guards said not much has been changed since the Dutch embassy took possession about half a century ago. “The building stands as it was then,” he said. “Yes,the gate is new but its design is replicated from what it used to be.”

When Jinnah decided to sell the house,many rich Delhi families showed interest but he sold it to Dalmia,a staunch Hindu,who performed a purification ritual,washing it with Ganga jal.

“Dalmia and Jinnah were friends — Jinnah liked him a lot,” Malhotra said.

The house,which previously was simply fenced,is now enclosed within high walls. It is only when you peer through the chinks in the gate that the mansion is revealed. This wasn’t a house Jinnah built like the palatial house in Mumbai’s Malabar Hills. While leaving for Pakistan,he had asked Jawarharlal Nehru to protect the Malabar Hills house,designed by Claude Batley and built in 1936. Jinnah still nursed a desire to return and live in Mumbai.

But Delhi was never the city Jinnah wanted to stay in — it was in the last few years that he started visiting the Capital often. When his Muslim League friends advised him to set up residence here,Jinnah surveyed many houses on Alipur Road and Flag Staff Road before settling on 10-Aurangzeb Road.

Before that,he stayed at the Imperial Hotel.

But unlike the house in the city he loved,the bungalow in Delhi was bought for a purpose: to have a political presence in the city and mobilise support for the two-nation theory.

And when Jinnah got what he wanted,he let the house go.

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