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In the Shadow of the Banyan Tree

Vikhar Ahmed Sayeed

Edited by Khwaja Razi Haidar
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2010, pp. xxii+168, PKR 595.00


The purpose of Khwaja Razi Haider’s book is to shed light on the life and personality of Ruttie Jinnah, the wife of Mohammed Ali Jinnah. It is a well known fact that Jinnah was an extremely private person and this book tries to satiate the curiosity of researchers and lay readers about the inner aspects of Jinnah’s life. It is clear from the title that it is a biography of Ruttie Jinnah but it is difficult for any writing on a person who is associated with Jinnah not to be overshadowed by the massive penumbra of the Qaid himself. This fact gets reinforced because of the short life of Ruttie Jinnah (born Ruttie Bai on 20 February 1900 to Sir Dinshaw Petit), who died at the relatively young age of 29 before she could really establish a role for herself like Fatima Jinnah, the favourite sister of Jinnah who went on to have a brief role in Pakistan’s turbulent post-formative phase. The book was first published in Urdu in Pakistan in 2004 and the author himself has translated the work into English. In Ruttie’s brief adult life, which really began after she married Jinnah against her father’s wishes at the age of 18, she lived vivaciously and colourfully barring her last years when she lived away from Jinnah. Her marriage which took place on April 19, 1918, coincided with an epoch of great effervescence in Indian politics and these early years of their marriage were also the formative years of Jinnah’s politics who was then on the ascendant to the great stature that he would possess in his later life. Ruttie’s life was overshadowed by being the wife of this great man but Haider’s intention is to dwell on aspects of Ruttie’s life which give her a distinct personality apart from that of Jinnah’s wife.Having said that, Haider’s book also needs to be seriously censured for its lack of scholarly approach to what could perhaps have been an interesting subject to explore. The author seems to have fallen prey to the idea that the pioneering act of exploring a new area justifies the lack in academic vigour. The book is a short work and can be read in a few hours and does not provide any great depth in understanding the character of Ruttie, and concomitantly, even though it provides teasers into the private life ...

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