In Mumbai to launch his controversial piece of work,Jinnah: India-Partition-Independence ,Jaswant Singh is not once the nervous author. Ensconed on a cushy couch in his suite at the Trident Hotel,with a view of the sea as far as the eyes can travel,the parliamentarian is as satiated with his oeuvre as a first-time writer would be. I feel a sense of achievement, he says.
Besides being a scholarly examination of one of the most traumatic events in modern history,the partition of the subcontinent,the book has special significance for Mumbai as its central character is the man popularly held responsible for the creation of Pakistan,Bombay-based lawyer and founder of the Muslim League,the erudite and elegant Mohammed Ali Jinnah.
Jinnah schooled and lived in Mumbai,then known as Bombay,for most of his life. He only lived in Pakistan for his last 13 months, Singh remembers. His home,the sprawling Jinnah House is in the eye of a legal storm as Jinnahs daughter,his legal heir,is trying to wrangle it from the governments stronghold.
Jinnah House belongs to his daughter,Dina, Singh clearly asserts. The house should go to his family,and Im very clear that shes his natural daughter and his only child… A house should not become a political plaything. There are other prominent leaders,whose names I will not mention,who have got their properties back that were earlier declared as evacuee properties.
Jinnahs Bombay puts the 71-year-old Singh in nostalgia mode. I just drove by Watsons Hotel on my way here, says Singh,whose book caused the proverbial storm in a teacup and caused his expulsion from the BJP,a wound that still has not healed for the former minister of finance,defence and external affairs. Did you know Jinnah played pool there in the evenings? He wanted to make a little extra money from it.
Bombay,the twice-published author recounts,is where Jinnah spent his entire working life. Bombay gave him the opportunity to rise politically. Bombay is where he fell in love and married Ruttie (Rattanbai Petit),he also lost his wife here, Singh recalls. The city was also where the creator of Pakistan struggled,walking to work at the High Court to save travel cost and walked back again. On the Pakistan founders hardworking spirit,Singh says,He would say Theres always room at the top,but you have to take the stairs,there is no lift to take.
Jinnah: India-Partition-Independence was launched in Mumbai last evening,with eminent namesfilmmaker Mahesh Bhatt,senior journalist MJ Akbar,Sunil Khilnani and lawyer Harish Salve discussing it in a panel.