Here is a mesmerising tribute to the grand old lady from great grandson of Allama Iqbal, Yousuf Salahudin.
When time stood still
By Yousaf Salahudin
I was dining with friends at my home when Shaukat Aziz, the finance
minister, mentioned to me that the Quaid-i-Azam’s daughter and her
family were due to visit Pakistan during the Pakistan-India cricket
series. I could hardly believe that. The rest of the dinner passed in
a haze while I wondered what it would be like to meet this remarkable
I grew up in a family where stories of the Quaid were often narrated
and listened to in rapt attention. I never had the opportunity of
meeting the great man himself, even though he seemed omnipresent in
My maternal grandfather, Allama Mohammad Iqbal, gave the vision of
Pakistan and when the Mr Jinnah left Congress and settled down in
England, it was he who convinced the Quaid that a separate homeland
for Muslims was absolutely necessary.
The Allama also convinced the Indian Muslims that the Quaid was the only one who could achieve it. It is quite simple really – had there been no Quaid, there would have
been no Pakistan.
When they met for the last time at Allama Iqbal’shouse shortly before his death in 1938, Iqbal told his son that a gentleman would come to see him that day and that he should be
well-dressed and look for an opportunity to get his autograph.
Dr Javed Iqbal relates the story in his book Zinda Road. He went into the
room where he was sitting. After wishing the great leader, he
requested him for his autograph. While signing the book, the Quaid
asked him if he wrote poetry like his father did to which he replied
in the negative.
The Quaid then asked him what he wanted to do when he
grew up. The young man didn’t have an answer to that. Mr Jinnah then
asked Allama Iqbal why was his son was silent, to which the poet said:
“He is looking at you for advice.”
On my father’s side, our first contact with the League began as far
back as 1906 when the League was not a political party but a movement
of like-minded people. During the second session in Karachi, my
grandfather’s younger brother and cousin attended as representatives
of our family.
By that time, our family had already started a movement
on the lines of Sir Syed to educate underprivileged Muslims in the
Punjab. A group of well-to-do Muslims donated their time, money and
property for this cause and my great, great grandfather, Mian Karim
Buksh, was made life vice-president.
It was this institution that built the Islamia College, Railway Road, Islamia College Civil Lines and Islamia College for Women, along with other educational
institutions and orphanages. The Anjuman Himayat-i-Islam, as it came
to be known, would hold an annual congregation of Muslims from all
over India every year.
Smaller sessions were held at the Haveli Baroodkhana which hosted dignitaries such as Altaf Hussain Hali, Deputy Nazir Ahmed, Maulana Shaukat Ali and Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar. It was this platform that the Quaid used to address the
Muslims of Punjab for the first time. And in 1940 when the Pakistan
Resolution was passed, the Quaid entrusted my grandfather, Mian
Aminuddin, with the task of organizing and holding the meeting. Mian
Aminuddin was chairman of the ‘pindal committee.’
Coming back to the present, the possibility of seeing the Quaid’s
daughter in this same haveli moved me beyond words. I didn’t know very
much about Dina Wadia other than that she was a private person.
I had only read one interview of hers which was done for a documentary by my
friend Sophie Swire during the 50th independence celebrations of India
and Pakistan. I could clearly see her father in her. I once asked my
late mother-in-law, Begum Iftikharuddin, who knew both Jawaharlal
Nehru and the Quaid closely, what was the difference between the two.
She said that Nehru had an undeniable presence which one felt the
moment he entered a room, but when the Quaid walked in, his presence
was simply electrifying. I wondered if his daughter had the same kind
I met Mr Jinnah’s grandson Nasli Wadia and his sons, Ness and Jay, at
my house on the evening of March 24 at a party hosted by my son,
Jalal. I told Nasli of my overwhelming desire to meet his mother.
The next day, Nasli called to tell me that they were postponing their
departure to Karachi and that he would be happy if I joined him and
his mother at a chic cafe in the walled city where they were to dine
with their friend Shaharyar Khan and his family. After the initial
excitement died down, I noticed that Nasli, who had all the amenities
of the State Guest House at his disposal, had called me from his own
mobile phone. It was typical of what one had heard of the Quaid.
I arrived early at the cafe and was there to watch Ms Wadia walk in. I
was stunned by her resemblance to her father. Everyone who sees her
for the first time is struck by her remarkable likeness to her father.
Shaharyar Khan was kind enough to ask me to sit next to her. When I
was able to speak, the first thing I said to her was: “Ma’am, you have
done a great honour to us by coming to Pakistan.” To which she
replied: “I’m happy to be here but you really must thank Shaharyar. It
was on his invitation that I am here.”
A smorgasbord of Lahori specialities was relentlessly delivered to our
table. Though I was apprehensive of the assault on her taste buds, she
tried a bit of everything and was gracious in praising the food. She
then spoke highly of the ambience of the Old City and the Badshahi
She told me that she had visited my grandfather’s grave
earlier that day. I felt somewhat guilty for monopolizing the guest of
honour, but I couldn’t help speaking to her. I talked about her father
and she listened with great interest. One could clearly see that she
loved her father very much. It was amazing not only how closely she
looked like her father, she also spoke like him.
We were sitting near the stairs leading up to the rooftop and people came and went past us now and again. Out of these people, three women spotted Dina and
hesitantly made their way over to her. One tried to speak, but was
clearly choked up. After apologizing profusely for interrupting the
dinner, she said: “I don’t have words to speak to you. God bless you.”
As we were leaving the cafe, I met my old friend Haroon Rashid with
his family. I introduced him to Ms Wadia and said his grandfather, Sir
Abdul Rasheed, was the first chief justice and swore in the Quaid as
the first governor-general of Pakistan.
Confusing Haroon’s name with the Haroon family, she said, “Of course I know the Haroon family, they were friends of my father.” Or maybe she knew his aunt was from the
Haroon family. The genuine emotion was overwhelming and I had to take
a minute to compose myself before asking her if she would do me the
honour of visiting my home.
She agreed and I can say without reservation that that was the greatest moment of my life.
I have in the past had the good fortune of entertaining dignitaries,
celebrities and heads of states, all of which paled into
insignificance when compared with this experience. We all made our way
over to my house where I showed her the pictures I had of her father
and our families. She looked at all of these pictures with great
affection, particularly at one of “Auntie Fatima”, pictured with my
mother when she visited the Allama house in 1951. She looked at the
pack of cigarettes which I was holding, and said: “Stop smoking. It’s
not good for your health.”
“I am trying to, Ma’am,” I said. “Well stop it then, I am ordering
you,” she said firmly.
After the haveli, we went for dessert to a restaurant. She invited me
to sit in her car, making queries about the landmarks as we passed
them by, particularly Data Darbar, the facade of which she admired.
The restaurant was, as always, abuzz with young Lahoris enjoying an
evening out. There was a large contingent from Lums and some students,
on recognizing her, came forward to ask if they could shake her hand.
She graciously shook hands and spoke to them, wishing them luck. It
was heartening to see such reverence in the eyes of Pakistan’s
so-called disrespectful youth. I don’t think anyone who met Ms Wadia
will ever forget her. I opened the door of the car and said goodbye.
She kissed me on both cheeks and held my hand firmly. It was an
inexplicable sense of reassurance and comfort, this contact with the
Quaid’s living link.
A small crowd had gathered outside her car. A boy
on the street tried to approach her but was stopped by a policeman.
“No, no,” she roared, in her father’s voice, “let him come”, and
motioned towards him. Like her father, she disliked police escorts and
the attendant fanfare.
In awe-truck silence, the boy came to the car where she took his hand, in her usual style with both hands. Thepeople standing around him also followed. There was complete silence as I saw, for the first time ever, a group of Pakistanis forming an
orderly queue and waiting for their turn to shake hands with her.
The car rolled away and the evening was at an end. As I stood there
and watched her go, I could not help saying to myself: “Thank you,
Shaharyar Khan, you have served your country well but surely this was
your greatest achievement and thank you, General Pervez Musharraf, for
giving her the honour and respect she so deserves. Goodbye, Ma’am, and
God bless you. Come back soon, this is the home of your father and you
remind us so much of him.
It was over as soon as it had begun, this unimaginable encounter, the
most magical evening of my life.