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The House of Mohammed Ali Jinnah in Mumbai: A Nostalgic Story

MG is an air warrior and a global traveler who loves to visit and explore new places.

Background

I remember reading a poem, rather a nursery rhyme titled 'The house that Jack built.' It's a beautiful poem about a house built by a man called Jack, with brick and mortar and once it is finished, he longs to stay there but finds that his love has flown. Somehow the House of Jinnah in Mumbai's posh Malabar Hill area reminds me of Jack and his house.

Muhamed Ali Jinnah was a towering figure during the days of the Raj and along with Gandhi and Nehru formed the Trimurti of the political leadership. Jinnah's father was a Hindu and he converted to Islam when Jinnah was six. So Jinnah was born a Hindu and embraced the Shia faith. After Jinnah died, his sister Fatima asked the court to execute Jinnah's will under Shia Islami law. He was a secular person but unfortunately, he died in 1948, and Pakistan was left rudderless and moved towards extremism.

The house is located at 2, Bhausaheb Hirey Marg in South Mumbai and overlooks the current residence of the Chief Minister of Maharashtra. The house is now locked up and barred to all visitors. Designed by architect Claude Batley, the sea-facing palatial bungalow was built in 1936 at an exorbitant price (for that time) of Rs 2 lakh.

For some time, it was the residence of the British resident commissioner till 1983 when they vacated it. For a brief period it was occupied by the Indian cultural affairs ministry but now it is vacant and the subject of a court case.

Not many know that this bungalow was built by Jinnah by razing an earlier Portuguese-style mansion called Southern Court. In sum total, he stayed at this place on Malabar hill for close to four decades.

The House on Malabar Hill

Jinnah lived in this palatial house for 10 years. Earlier he was staying at the same place called southern Court for over 3 decades. He was an affluent lawyer and represented the rich and wealthy in the Bombay High court. Towards the end of 1946, he left his house and moved to Karachi. But he never contemplated selling it and hoped he would come back some time.

Jinnah could never make it back to Bombay as he was sworn as the Governor-General of Pakistan.

Today, this sprawling mansion is called Jinnah House. Jinnah and Mahatma Gandhi first held their talks on the Partition of India in this house. On August 15, 1946, Jinnah and Nehru met here for another round of talks. Jinnah realized at that time that he would have to leave this house and Bombay as the price for the creation of Pakistan

Bombay and Jinnah are inseparable. He arrived in the city with just a few bags and a law degree and started his practice. He made his fortune here, and also his entry into politics. He also fell in love with his best friend Sir Dinshaw Petit's daughter here and both often had a peg of whiskey together. But the relationship broke when he expressed his intention to marry his daughter, mainly because she was 23 years younger than Jinnah.

Ruttie Jinnah rests in Mumbai. She had left him and died in 1929. Jinnah had married her in 1918 when she was just 16 and he was 39 but the marriage was not a smooth one and ultimately Ruttie left him and settled in Bombay. They had one daughter who was born in 1919.

Jinnah was averse to selling the mansion so he requested Jawaharlal Nehru to rent it, preferably to a European family.

Nehru agreed to Jinnah’s request and a monthly rent of Rs 3,000, was agreed but, Jinnah passed away in September 1948 and the lease was never signed.

Jinnah House has mostly remained vacant since 1946. Today the house is abandoned and has a forlorn look. This property at South Court has been under litigation. Jinnah’s late daughter, Dina Wadia mother of the industrialist Nusli Wadia has laid claim to the property. Dina Wadia renounced Islam to marry Nusli Wadia with whom she was in love. Jinnah had perforce to agree but the girl never went to Pakistan except for a brief visit in 2004. She died in New York in 2017.

In the midst of this, the palatial house where history unfolded and momentous meetings that took place stands abandoned.

Jinnah's Parsi relatives in Mumbai

Jinnah's Parsi relatives in Mumbai

The Current State of the Jinnah House

The Jinnah house has had an ongoing case in the Bombay High Court for close to five decades and no decision has been given. There is now a demand from hardline parties to raze Jinnah's house to the ground but this has not been accepted by the government of India who is contesting the claim of Dina Wadia. After the death of Jinnah's daughter Dina in 2017, the Bombay High Court has accepted her grandsons to be the plaintiffs.

References

  1. "The House Jinnah Built" by Rizvi Syed Haider Abbas, The Milli Gazette, 1–15 September 2004
  2. Jinnah As I Know Him by Dr Sachidanand Sinha
  3. Jinnah Often Came to Our House by Kiran Doshi
  4. "Story of Jinnah House Where Partition of India Was Discussed" by Prabhash K Dutta, India Today, April 2017

Comments

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on August 26, 2021:

Thank you, Pamela, for a wonderful comment.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on August 26, 2021:

It is a shame that this house still is empty. This is a very informative article, MG. The aspects of the culture make this a very interesting article. I enjoyed reading this.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on August 26, 2021:

Thank you, Bill, for commenting. Jinnah was a towering figure and a believer in secular ideas but his early death was a disaster and Pakistan has shifted a full spectrum to extremism with the Blasphemy law and Hooded Ordinance and the celebration at the victory of the Taliban. Jinnah would never have allowed it.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on August 26, 2021:

Thank you, David, Jinnah was a secular man but he died early and Pakistan has drifted from his ideals.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on August 26, 2021:

What a fascinating story. Thanks for sharing it with us. I love learning about other cultures. It gives me a better understanding of the world around me, a world which, at times, seems to mammoth and separate from my little life. Stories like this one help to shrink the world down a bit into chunks which are easier to digest.

David Isaac on August 26, 2021:

It was very nice reading about the house of Jinnah but I have a point it is sad, that he died so soon otherwise if he had lived could Pakistan ever have had the blasphemy act?

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