Dina Wadia and the Partition

Muhammad Ali Jinnah was nothing if not complicated. Jinnah, an alcohol-drinking, pork-eating, English-loving barrister, was the founder of  the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Yesterday, his only child Dina Wadia died and that too is complicated.

Dina Wadia was the daughter of Jinnah and his Parsi wife Rattanbai Petit whom he proposed to at 16 and married at 18 when he was 42. Rattanbai was the daughter of one of Jinnah’s friends, who never forgave him. Jinnah and Petit’s daughter, Dina, was born in 1919 shortly after their marriage. Rattanbai died only ten years later.

Dina herself married young, to the Parsi Neville Wadia whose successful family-business went back to the days of the East India Company. But Jinnah was furious that she had married outside the faith telling her “There are millions of Muslim boys in India,” and she could marry any one of them she chose. Dina promptly replied, “Father, there were millions of Muslim girls in India. Why did you not marry one of them?” Jinnah did not attend the wedding.

When India’s partition came, Jinnah’s family was partitioned as well. Jinnah went to Pakistan and his daughter stayed in India, never to see him again. Her son, Nusli Wadia, became one of India’s richest men. Thus the descendants of the founder of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan are successful Indian Parsis. The last twist perhaps in Jinnah’s complicated tale.

In her later years, Dina Wadia moved to New York where she died yesterday.


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