When Time Stood
encounter with Dina Wadia, Quaid-i-Azam’s
daughter, leaves the grandson of Allama Iqbal speechless
By Yusuf Salahuddin
I was dining
with friends at my home when Shaukat Aziz, then
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 lady.
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's
house 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 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
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 that 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 of
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 honor 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 specialties 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 Masjid. She told me that she
had visited my grandfather's grave earlier that
day. I felt somewhat guilty for monopolizing the
guest of honor, 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 honor 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
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
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-struck
silence, the boy came to the car where she took
his hand, in her usual style with both hands. The
people 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 honor
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.