Not enough is written about the woman, who was the chosen companion of the founding father of Pakistan. And only a handful of books have been published about her life. Ruttenbai “Ruttie” Petit (she officially became MARIYAM JINNAH after her marriage to Mohammad Ali Jinnah, although she never actually used that name) was born on February 20, 1900; she was the only child of Sir Dinshaw and Dinabai Petit.
The Petits were one of the wealthiest Parsi families of Bombay, and their house played regular host to the prominent personalities of high society…..businessmen, poets, ministers and lawyers, all gathered at their place to socialize. It was in this environment and among such people that Ruttie grew up.
The Flower Of Bombay as she was called, had three passions in her life:- books, clothes and pets. From a young age, Ruttie was a natural charmer, beautiful, witty and obstinate, having an independent life.
At the same time, she was an incredibly soft-hearted person, generous, an ardent humanitarian and often spoke out against the ill-treatment of animals. She was politically aware but rarely engaged in politics. Her love for fashion had established her reputation as one of the well-dressed women in Bombay high society.
In the summer of 1916, Sir Dinshaw Petit invited a young lawyer to spend a summer with his family in Darjeeling. The lawyer was Mohammad Ali Jinnah, a resolute bachelor and 24 years her senior, but they both shared quite a few interests, because of which, they got to know each other better.
Two years later, on April19, 1918, at the hands of Moulana Nazeer Ahmed, Ruttie embraced Islam. She brought with her, only her pets from her old life, to be with Jinnah. They were married at his residence South Court.
Soon after her wedding, Ruttie busied herself in decorating her house. She stood by her husband through thick and thin. Although, she never herself engaged in politics, but helped her husband in every tides of life. Many a times, her calm confidence and nature boosted up his spirits.
She and Jinnah visited England in May 1919. As a couple, they often went out for walks, to the theatre and to the opera. Their daughter, Dina, who was named after Ruttie’s mother, was born on August 14,1919.
As Jinnah’s political career became more demanding, he had less time to spend with his wife. It was around this time that Ruttie’s health started deteriorating. She was diagnosed with colitis, and soon the disease became chronic.
Although, she kept herself busy, but she often felt neglected and lonely. Between 1926 and 1928, she was restricted to bed. She went to England with her mother, and later to Paris, where she was admitted in a clinic. Mohammad Ali Jinnah went to Paris and stood by her side, even eating the same food she was given. Her health improved, and she moved to Bombay, where it took a turn for the worse again. Her loyal friend, Kanji, was by her side, the night before she died. The last thing she said to him was:
“If I die, look after my cats, and don’t give them away.”
Ruttie passed away in her sleep on February29, 1929-------- on her 29th birthday.
Jinnah was not a man who expresses himself in public, but when Ruttie’s coffin was being lowered in her grave, he broke down and wept without reservation. He had all of her belongings-------her clothes, ornaments and pictures packed in boxes and stored away. It is said that he occasionally asked for those boxes be brought to him and would go through her belongings lovingly, then just as suddenly, he would pack them again and have them taken away.
It is perhaps not wrong to say that the Flower of Bombay, bloomed in his heart forever.