MEMORIES OF JINNAH
Author K H Khurshid
I met Mr. Jinnah for first time on 19 November 1942 at Jullundhar, where the Punjab Muslim Students’ Federation is holding its annual conference which the Quaid-i-Azam has agreed to preside over.
I had been doing a lot of work with the Kashmir Muslim Students’ Union that we had formed in Srinagar and two students, Ghulam Rasul and I, were selected by the Union to represent it at Jullundhar. As far as I can now remember, a part of our fare was raised through donations. By sheer good luck, Punjab University was also holding its annual declamation contest in Lahore in the third week of November and Dr. M. D. Taseer, our principal, asked me to go to Lahore to take part in it.
When I say I met Mr. Jinnah for the first time, I do not mean that there was a meeting as such. Perhaps it would be more appropriate to say that I just saw him and we shook hands. He uttered just one sentence, ‘So this is yours’ as he handed me the Muslim League flag which had been awarded to the Kashmir Council for enrolling the largest number of members.
It was here that I first heard him speak. His voice was powerful and resonant but not full. Subconsciously, I had expected a thunder and a roar but what I heard was milder, though clear and firm. He spoke with incredible clarity. Every single word was fully pronounced and delivered with proper emphasis. His left arm, turned at the elbow, rested across his back. His gesticulated with his right, emphasizing his points with a pointed index finger and sometimes with a sweep of his hand. When he stressed an important point, he raised his right arm and the right index finger, with his left hand rolled into a fist. His movements were always sharp and quick.
His Urdu was tolerable. Later I discovered that, judged by the standard of the language spoken in Bombay, his knowledge and delivery were far superior compared to many others who had actually learnt the language. Mr. Jinnah had no opportunity of studying Urdu when young.
Another thing which struck me was that he looked much younger than I had imagined .His hair, silver-grey and white at the temples, had distinct streaks of black. He told me later that he did not use oil and kept his hair dry.
One thing that one immediately noticed was the devotion of the people to him. I suppose I myself felt such admiration and love for him, I found it only normal if crowds ran after him or closed in on the platform where he was standing or lined his route and mobbed him. In any case, I myself was part of these crowds. The people had been seized by an almost uncontrollable desire to see him and he had begun to be looked upon as saviour of the Muslims, with extraordinary powers.
At a session of the League, while either Sardar Aurangzeb Khan or Qazi Isa was speaking, Mr. Jinnah drew a sketch of the microphone on a piece of paper lying on the table. After he left, it was auctioned and bought by one of the students for ten rupees ——– quite a large sum of money for a student in those days.
On the third day of our stay in Jullundhar, I decided to go and see Mr. Jinnah. There was nothing particular that I wanted to tell him except that I was from Kashmir and that we were doing good work in our own way. I would have been satisfied if he had only shaken hands and then dismissed me. However, as Ghulam Rasul and I approached the house where he was staying, I was told by some of the student volunteers that Mr. Jinnah was resting and could not be disturbed. We walked back, not disappointed but actually happy that we had not disturbed him, something which would have been criminal in our eyes. Such was Mohamed Ali Jinnah’s magic.
From Jullundhar I returned to Lahore to take part in the declamation contest, while Ghulam Rasul went back to Srinagar. I had only a day to prepare my speech, which, suffice it to say, was no match for the refined declamatory skills of Lahore’s Anglo-Indian girls. I did not win a prize but it was enough that I had been ‘heard’, to quote Dr. Taseer.
At Lahore, I had another opportunity of seeing Mr. Jinnah or more accurately, looking at him. He addressed a large gathering in Delhi Gate gardens before leaving for Lyallpur, where he was inaugurating the annual Punjab Muslim League session. We heard him with rapt attention and after the meeting was over, the crowd thronged to the stage. So large was its size that Mr. Jinnah could not get to his car. He stood smoking for some time while the organizers unsuccessfully pleaded with the people to make way for him. Finally, with a wave of his hand, his cigar between his fingers, Mr. Jinnah said, ‘I ask them to go’. This was translated by one of the organizers into Urdu as
“Quaid-i-Azam farmatey hain ke main aap ko hukam deta hoon….” The crowd, including me, fell back, like obedient soldiers.
From that day on, I was firm believer in Mr. Jinnah. Every news item, every article or letter that appeared in the Press, I followed. Anything which had any bearing on, or contained any reference to, his activities or to the Muslim League, I read faithfully. Later, as I came more in contact with local politicians and went to Jammu in the winter of 1942, my political activities increased, assuming a more public character. I began writing in the weekly Javed, with Allah Rakha Saghar, the Muslim Conference leader, providing me with a good deal of encouragement. This association developed further and we became very friendly. Early in 1944,Mr. Jinnah , who had come to Lahore to settle the Unionist Party issue ,decided to visit the State ,an event which was to change the entire course of my life, making me set aside all my plans and ambitions and opening a whole new world before me.
At Sialkot, in the first week of May 1944, I had another opportunity to catch a glimpse of the Quaid-i-Azam, at the inauguration of the annual session of the Punjab Muslim league. He looked very tired, almost exhausted. It was in Sialkot that we learnt that Mr. Jinnah would be in Srinagar in a week’s time.
I returned to Jammu immediately afterwards. On 5 May, I left for Srinagar with my mother. Once there, we, the students, constituted a reception committee with Sheikh Mohammad Amin as chairman and I as one of the members. Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah and his All Jammu and Kashmir National Conference had announced plans to hold public reception for Mr. Jinnah in Pratap Park. The police, after making elaborate arrangements to prevent any breach of law and order, advised that the National Conference and Muslim Conference should hold separate meetings, the latter at Dalgate. Mr. Jinnah who was to stay at ‘Kaushik’ a bungalow located between Nishat Bagh and Chashma Shahi would thus be forced to make –– it was police thinking –– only a minor diversion to receive both addresses of welcome.
The National Conference reception came first. I wasn’t there –– it was Sheikh Abdullah’s show ––– but I was told that Mr. Jinnah had made a brief speech in which he had said that the honor being shown to him was because he happened to be the President of the All India Muslim League, which was the representative organization of the Indian Muslims. He then made a brief appeal for unity before being driven to the Muslim Conference reception. It was there that he made the much–to-be-quoted remark, ‘We have one God, one Quran, one Ka’aba and one Prophet. Let’s have one organization, one platform, one flag and one leader.
We students had arranged a welcome along his route and I was assigned the Canal Bridge, near Nedous Hotel, which leads to Dalgate. We had erected a welcoming arch and decorated the bridge itself with branches and leaves. Mr. Jinnah’s car passed, with a huge crowd from Pratap Park meeting, keen to hear him a second time, making up the rear. In the rush, our precariously-poised arch fell to the ground and the poor decorations we had put on the bridge were trampled under the people’s feet. Mr. Jinnah had gone to and so had our high spirits. It felt as if all our loving preparations, the small tokens of our devotion, all the days spent planning arrangements, had not only been transient but perhaps also futile. I did not even try to go near the dais where Mr. Jinnah was now seated, nor was I able to welcome him on behalf of the students, which normally I would have done.
Later, at ‘Kaushik’, I met Mr Jinnah’s secretary, Lobo, a Christian from Goa. He had joined the Quaid only a few months previously and was very much handicapped on account of his inability to speak Urdu. I was introduced to Mr. Jinnah, not only as a student worker but also as the correspondent of the Orient Press, the only Muslim news agency in India. I left my name and address with Lobo in case there was anything for the Press.
‘Kaushik’ was a beautiful bungalow in the lap of the Gupkar hills, overlooking the Dal Lake, about five or six miles from Srinagar. There was a small lawn in front of the house, which had a full-length veranda. I met Mr. Jinnah three times during his stay at ‘Kaushik’, twice with representatives of the Muslim Conference and once because of a letter which I had been asked to deliver to him.
On the first occasion, he spoke of the journey and his programme and asked for help in obtaining petrol, which was rationed in the State. He also made a few remarks about his health.
The second time I met him was with a delegation of the Muslim Conference, comprising Chaudhri Ghulam Abbas, Mir Waiz Maulvi Mohammad Yusuf Shah and A. R. Saghar. Sheikh Abdullah had met Mr. Jinnah earlier that afternoon and was, in fact, leaving when we arrived. Mr. Jinnah, who was out on the lawn with him, later took him to the garage to show him his car, which was giving some trouble. Sheikh Abdullah promised to send someone to look at it and went away. He was as good as his word because while we were still there, a mechanic arrived to do the job.
At the time, the Muslim Conference was experiencing minor internal convulsions. The younger element and some prominent workers, led by Mohammad Ismail Saghar and Mohammad Yusuf Qureshi, had tried to wrest control of party affairs. This group was strongly opposed to Mir Waiz Yusuf as head of the party. While it wanted him to continue his moral support, it was felt that he should confine his activities to his pupils in his high school and the Anjuman-e-Islamia. It appeared that Chaudhri Ghulam Abbas had earlier brought this matter to the Quaid’s attention because he took it up in the course of the meeting.
Addressing the Mir Waiz, Mr Jinnah said (he was speaking in Urdu) that if someone came to him and said, ‘Sir, you are our great Quaid, would you kindly build us a bridge on the Jhelum?’ –– he would have to decline because he would not be able to do that, as it was not his job. Consequently, if everybody just did his own job and did it well, it would be much better for the nation in the long run.
He then dwelt upon the Muslim character and the Muslim attitude to life generally and regretted that the strength of character that was expected of the Muslims was lacking. A day or two earlier, the news of Sir Jamal Mohammad Khan Leghari’s appointment as Minister in the Malik Khizar Hayat cabinet in the Punjab had appeared in the Press. Mr. Jinnah told us that Sir Jamal had given him repeated assurances during his stay in Lahore that he would remain with Muslim League and resign if a break with Khizar became inevitable. He had, in fact, suggested that Khizar should be expelled and now the man had gone and joined Khizar’s cabinet.
Mr. Jinnah said that he had been told by many that Sir Jamal’s word was not worth anything but he had nevertheless accepted it, believing that his advisers had miscalculated. And what was it that Sir Jamal had gained? Nothing. He was a rich landlord; he was not in need of a job and, what was more, he had given assurances that he would stand by the Muslim League. If it were the case of a poor man falling for a few rupees, Mr. Jinnah went on, he would have appreciated his difficulties. But in Sir Jamal’s case, it was a manifestation of the lack of character he had earlier spoken of.
The third time I met Mr. Jinnah, it was to deliver a message on behalf of the Muslim Conference. After he had given me his reply in form of a letter, Mr. Jinnah asked me if I knew shorthand and typing. When I said I did not, he remarked that if I learned these skills, it would be an additional help to me and increase my value in the ‘market’, as he put it. He then asked me a few personal questions as to my studies and my family and I took my leave of him.
He behaved towards me exquisitely throughout. Later, as my visits became more frequent, he would often come to the door himself to let me in. If he was busy, he would ask me to wait, but I was never told to go away and come back another time.
After he shifted to the ‘Queen Elizabeth’, a houseboat, moored not far from where we lived in Abiguzar, it became rather easy for me to visit him. All I had to do was to take a shikara and row across the river to the Convent College ghat. I would drop by for a few minutes to see if there was anything for the press and I was invariably summoned in. One question he asked me almost every time I saw him was, ‘What is Gandhi doing?’ He was under the impression that the Orient Press had a reasonable office in Srinagar where news was received from all over for distribution. This, of course, was far from the case. However, I used to entertain him with the local gossip, or ‘local gup’, as he called it. If I had something else which had trickled through to me, I would pass it on as well. While I never wanted my meetings with him to end, the realization that perhaps I was holding him back from something important always made me keep our conversations short.
One day while Chaudhri Ghulam Abbas was telling Mr. Jinnah about his difficulties regarding the reorganization of the Muslim Conference because he had the handicap of coming from Jammu and was not Kashmiri-speaking, the Quaid-i-Azam told him that it should not be difficult at all to learn a language. He then narrated his own experience in Bengal during the 1936-7 elections. He said he was visiting Sir Azizul Haque’s constituency in East Bengal and was due to speak at a public meeting. He realized that speaking in English would be futile as the peasants could not understand the language. That was the first time he spoke in Urdu. He soon learnt to express himself quite well in it. Later, Hassan Rayaz told me how quick the Quaid was in picking up and grasping Urdu words.
On 8th March 1944, Mr. Jinnah was the guest of honour at a garden party arranged by the well-known Srinagar businessman, Ghulam Ahmen, a jeweller, at the Amar Singh Club. It was a beautiful evening and the green lawns of the club and the fresh open air added to its pleasantness. Mr. Jinnah rose as the sun was setting and decided to go around the different tables to shake hands with the guests. It so happened that he came first to the table where I was sitting and after shaking hands and greeting the others, he asked me to accompany him on his walkabout. Since I knew most of the people present, I was able to introduce them to Mr. Jinnah. His personality was so awe-inspiring that when he approached a table, everyone stood up, unable to say much, if anything.
Actually, the Muslims were just happy to have had an opportunity to shake hands with Mr. Jinnah and say ‘Assalam-Alaikum’ to him. I noticed that Chopra, the State’s Hindu Wazir-e-Wazarat or chief judicial officer, avoided Mr. Jinnah by leaving the table Mr. Jinnah was about to come up to. He also left the next one, repeating the performance at least a couple of times before finding a table where Mr. Jinnah had already greeted the guests.
As we came to the table occupied by the leaders of the Kashmiri Pandit community, they all stood up and I said to Mr. Jinnah, ‘This is the Yurak Sabha en bloc’, as that was the name of their party. Shiv Narain Fotedar, the President of the Yurak Sabha said, ‘I am the leader of the minority community here but I am not the Jinnah of Kashmir.’ Obviously, the line was well-prepared but Mr. Jinnah’s quiet reply was, ‘I wish you the best of luck.’
I never forget the day he asked me to become his Private Secretary. It was 26 June 1944, a warm bright day. I got up rather late that morning and found that it was already time for the 8 o’clock news, of which I was a regular listener. That morning there was a brief item announcing the death due to heart failure of Nawab Bahadur Yar Jung, the Muslim League leader, at Panjira Hills, the previous evening. I immediately got ready and crossed the river to see Mr. Jinnah. He and Miss Fatima Jinnah, his sister, were still at breakfast and I was asked to wait. Through I was very sad at the news of the Muslim leader’s death, as a journalist I was happy because I was certain that Mr. Jinnah would give me his reaction. I was also quite sure that I was going to be the first to bring him the story.
A few minutes later, I was shown in. Mr. Jinnah, who was already in the drawing-room, received me with his usual smiling face and crisp ‘Good Morning’. I took a chair close to him and, after saying a few words about how well he looked, began, ‘Sir, we have some very sad news this morning.’ He looked at me, all attention. ‘Nawab Bahadur Yar Jung died last night.’
He was speechless for about twenty seconds. I could see the colour of his face change. He did not move. His eyes had a fixed, vacant look. Then he said something I had not expected: ‘I don’t believe it.’ While my first reaction was that it was his intense regard for the Nawab which had made him say he did not believe it, I was discomfited and told him that I had heard the news myself on the All India Radio, which would not have circulated the story unless it was true. ‘My dear fellow,’ said Mr. Jinnah, ‘You know it was broadcast twice that I was dead and once even a condolence resolution was moved in the Sindh Assembly.’ There was nothing I could say. I sincerely wished the story were wrong, though regretting that my best chance of getting a statement from Mr. Jinnah had gone. Actually, it would not have been much of a ‘scoop’ but it would still have meant a great deal to someone like me who was just starting out. At that moment, Miss Jinnah entered the room and her reaction unnerved me even more.
She began in a very cautious way to cross-examine me with questions such as: Where was Nawab Bahadur Yar Jung? What was he doing? What was the cause of death? What was the source of the information? What was the time? Of course, I had no answers to any of these questions. All I could do was to merely repeat the brief story broadcast by All India Radio which was that Nawab Bahadur Yar Jung had died of a sudden heart attack while attending an evening party.
Mr. Jinnah must have judged my feelings because as I rose to leave, he said if the story was correct, I would be the first to get his reaction. The same afternoon I ran into Chaudhri Ghulam Abbas Khan and A. R. Saghar and told them about the Nawab’s death. They were on their way to see Mr. Jinnah and Abbas asked me to come along which, willy-nilly, I did. We were shown into the drawing-room of the ‘Queen Elizabeth’. By now, Mr. Jinnah had received several telegrams informing him of the tragedy. Abbas had actually come to say good-bye as he was leaving for Jammu. The meeting was brief and Mr. Jinnah made a few remarks about the late Nawab and gave a few words of advice about Kashmir politics. As we rose to leave, Mr. Jinnah asked me to stay back.
After Abbas and Saghar had left, Mr. Jinnah sent for his secretary, Lobo, and dictated a message on the death of Nawab Bahadur Yar Jung to him. While Lobo was out of the room, Mr. Jinnah asked me if I would join him as his Private Secretary. Should I say I couldn’t believe my ears? It is such a cliché but it does describe my feelings. Here was something I had never thought about, never even dreamt of. A friend of mine said to me later that even if Mr. Jinnah’s Pathan guard, Zain Gul, had asked him (my friend) to become his Private Secretary, he would have felt honoured. Such was the universal adoration and love felt for Mr. Jinnah by the Muslims of India. My reaction can be better imagined than described. What young Muslim, interested in politics and national affairs, would not have felt the way I did at Mr. Jinnah’s offer?
I must say that later when Mr. Jinnah began to talk about terms of employment I felt that I had come down to earth. I told him repeatedly that terms of employment did not matter, but Mr. Jinnah advised me not to decide in a hurry, to think over the matter again and to be very frank with him. He said there were many well-qualified persons who had approached him, many students, many young men with degrees from various universities, but he did not think degrees and capabilities necessarily went together. He himself had taken no degree, he added.
A week earlier, Mir Waiz Maulvi Mohammad Yusuf had given a party for members of the Muslim Conference Council. Mr. Jinnah had used that occasion to tell me that my consistency and perseverance were ‘laudable’, referring to my efforts to secure a statement from him. ‘I shall try again’, I had told him. ‘Yes, keep on,’ he had said.
It was at this party that Mr. Jinnah was presented with a Kashmiri shawl and chaugha or gown by the Mir Waiz. Mr. Jinnah was asked to stand for a minute while the Mir Waiz put the chaugha on him. As Mr. Jinnah straightened himself in his new outfit, he smiled and said, ‘I look like a Kashmiri.’
The meal was served in the traditional Kashmiri way. A huge metal rakaba or dish heaped with plain boiled rice, enough to feed six, was placed before Mr. Jinnah. Everyone was seated on the floor and it had not occurred to the hosts to provide cutlery as rice is always eaten with one’s fingers in the traditional way. Mr. Jinnah felt rather embarrassed but then the situation was saved when someone produced a spoon with which the Quaid-i-Azam helped himself to some rice, washing it down with glass of soda water.
However, coming back to his offer, I do not know what had persuaded him to take the view that I was the best person to be his Private Secretary. Maybe he was impressed by my persistent efforts to coax press statement out of him, including one on Mr. Ghandi’s recent release from jail. Or perhaps as I was the first to break the news of Nawab Bahadur Yar Jung’s death to him, he might have thought that I was quick off the mark. Whatever it was, he had advised me to think over his offer and let me know when I had made up my mind. In the meantime, I was to work with Lobo.
One of the first things I was asked to do was to translate into English a letter from Mr. Ghandi written in Urdu with a translation in Gujarati. It was a simple letter but the Urdu expressions used were quite odd. Perhaps it had been drafted by someone other than Mr. Ghandi, may be his secretary, Pyare Lal, but signed by him, again in an unusual way. This was the letter, incidentally, which led to the Jinnah-Ghandi talks in September 1944 in Bombay.
On 1 July, Mr Jinnah moved to State Guest House No.4 at the invitation of Sir B. N. Rao, the State Prime Minister. It was here that he told me one day that, although he was a guest of the State, his hosts seemed afraid to see him. Rao had not been to call on him more than once and that was on the first day. Later, Rao invited him to dinner at his residence and once the formality of the meal was over, Mr. Jinnah noticed Rao looking ill at ease. ‘Why are they afraid?’ he asked me.
The Maharaja of Kashmir, who was one of the two Indian representatives in the Imperial War Cabinet, had been in Europe all this while and Mr. Jinnah had not had the opportunity of meeting him. He arrived on 23 July, six days before Mr. Jinnah was scheduled to leave by car via the Jhelum Valley Road. Soon after the Maharaja’s arrival, Mr. Jinnah sent him a letter welcoming him back and asking for an appointment. This was politely turned down by the Maharaja on the pretext that he had various other commitments and his time was fully taken up for the next few days. I did not have occasion to see Mr. Jinnah or observe his reaction to the Maharaja’s reply but Chaudhri Ghulam Abbas told me that Mr. Jinnah was rather angry about it.
Nawabzada Liaqat Ali Khan also came to Srinagar while Mr. Jinnah was there. The first time I saw him was on the Bund near the General Post Office one afternoon. He was with the Quaid and Miss Jinnah and carried a fly-whisk. He appeared to be in playful mood. One day, as he was coming out of the State Guest House, I introduced myself to him as the Orient Press correspondent and walked with him for a few minutes. He had nothing to say to me but asked me a few questions about myself and whether I was a Kashmiri. There was a marked difference between the two men. If, for instance, I had not known that the man walking on the road was Liaquat Ali Khan, perhaps I would not have noticed him. But with Mr. Jinnah it was a different matter altogether. If you came across him on the street, you were bound to be mesmerized. It was the way he carried himself, the way he walked, the immaculate manner in which he dressed, his handsome face, his silver-grey hair. Here was a man who compelled you to take notice of him, to pause and to look again.
I used to go to the State Guest House at about ten in the morning and remain there until one o’clock. Mr. Jinnah one day asked me to start learning shorthand and that was what I now spent my afternoons doing. He never dictated very fast but it was still fast enough if you were taking it down in longhand. Later, when he began to dictate important statements and letters to me, I realized how necessary it had been to master shorthand.
On 4 July 1944, I conveyed my final decision to Mr. Jinnah, which was, of course, a ‘yes’. He seemed rather happy to hear it. He said, ‘I will show you the world . . . and look after you.’ These assurances were quite enough for me and even if he had not given them, the spirit in which I had accepted his offer needed no inducements. Money was not a consideration, nor had I given any thought to personal comfort. All I wanted was to keep him satisfied with my work. Perhaps I should have bargained for a good salary. He had insisted that I should state the figure I wanted. I had given no thought to how much I would need in a place like Bombay or Delhi. I had no idea of the cost of living and I had no experience, but these considerations never even crossed my mind.
Some of my friends cautioned me that a ‘private’ job was very risky. What if Mr. Jinnah gave me the sack one fine morning in Bombay? They said he was a hard task-master. He was reputed to be a very hot-tempered person, they said, though so for my experience had been quite different. Anyway, such thoughts were as far away from my mind then as that time is from the present. I just did not believe that Mr. Jinnah would dismiss me or that I would leave him. All I knew was that I was joining the head of the Pakistan Movement, the President of the All India Muslim League. I remember telling a friend of mine in Srinagar, ‘You know, Ghulam Nabi, something tells me that either I shall die in the struggle for Pakistan, or if I come back alive, it shall only be when Pakistan is established.’ How true these words were to prove I did not know at the time.
My attitude to money would have made me a very bad salesman. If I have to sell something, I do not know how to ask for its price. If I ask for money, I feel as if I am begging, not offering an article in exchange. Whenever I have to ask for money, I feel under a severe strain. Therefore, when Mr. Jinnah made me his offer and asked what salary I would like, my distress can only be imagined. However, I could not evade the issue any longer and fearing lest I should ask for too much and draw a refusal, I said, ‘About a hundred, sir,’ Mr. Jinnah replied, ‘I will give you one hundred.’ I was relieved that this unpleasant business was over.
These are the miracle of faith and youth. In far-off Kashmir, we lived a peaceful life as a middle-class family of government officials. State service was still considered the best career among the intelligentsia as business did not hold much of a future for members of our class. There was a distinct line drawn between the ruler and the ruled, hence the prestige attached to those associated or connected with government. The standard of living in Kashmir was such that even secretaries to the government or heads of departments did not draw very high salaries. There were few exceptions to the official pay-scales and I did not think I had driven such a bad bargain.
On the other hand, I felt that as long as the struggle for Pakistan was on, we had no right to look for comforts, higher salaries and other facilities. Mr. Jinnah told me that his houses in Bombay and Delhi did not contain any accommodation for his secretary and that I would have to make my own arrangements. But apart from these two places, if he went anywhere else, arrangements would be made for everyone. When I discussed this matter with one of my friends, he said it would be quite difficult for me to make my own arrangements in Bombay and Delhi because of the war, something that I already knew. He also reminded me that for eleven months of the year Mr. Jinnah and, consequently, I, would be living either in Bombay or Delhi.
A few days later, Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan, after consultations with Mr. Jinnah, announced that the next meeting of the All India Muslim League Working Committee would be held in Lahore on 30-31 July 1944. The situation in the country had undergone a change and it was thought appropriate that the Muslim League executive should meet to consider it. C. Rajagopalachari or Rajaji or, more popularly, C.R., had released his own formula to the press on 10 July, after Mr. Jinnah had declined to give it his personal approval. There had been a spate of criticism.
Mr. Jinnah had been called ‘an expert poker player whose bluff had been called’. ‘Mr. Jinnah‘, Shyama Prasad Mukerji had said, ‘had been found out’ and Allama Inayatullah Mashriqi thought Mr. Jinnah’s attitude was ‘extraordinary, if not exasperating’. But it was Rajaji himself who did not let a day pass without a speech or statement explaining the formula over and over again. It was another matter that, in the process, he was also exposing himself and snags in his scheme.
Mr. Jinnah decided not to take any public notice of this reaction and as Mr. Gandhi’s invitation seemed to be a fresher and definitely better opportunity of discussing with the Hindus the terms of a settlement, he sent him a positive reply. He then got busy with the preparation of his speech to the League Council at Lahore, taking great pains over the draft, doing it three times over. This was the first time he had actually preparing a speech. Normally, he preferred to speak extempore, but the delicacy of the situation, involving as it did the question of a settlement with the Indian National Congress, warranted extra care, extra caution, and a careful choice of words. The speech was dictated by Mr. Jinnah in parts and was finally revised in Lahore, before the Council and the rest of India heard it.
Mr. Jinnah left on the morning of 25 July while Lobo, I and his personal staff, left the next day, via Jammu, spending the night at Kud and arriving at Mamdot Villa, Lahore, the next evening.
Mamdot Villa was large with a spacious lawn in front, which did not give the impression of being well-kept. I had a good look at the house the next day. There was a front verandah with two rooms at each end. Mr. Jinnah’s room, I was told, was the one in the left-hand corner, with a connecting door to the richly-carpeted drawing-room.
The Nawab of Mamdot himself gave the impression of being a mild-natured, quiet sort of man. The way he walked reminded me of the actor Kumar in the film Bare Nawab Sahib. The Nawab of Mamdot was never without his pandan either, which completed his resemblance to the actor.
Two things struck me about the household. The Nawab used Urdu when speaking to his younger brother, Zulfiqar, but Punjabi when talking to his uncle, Nawab Akbar Khan, who was obviously held in great esteem by the entire family. It appeared that by time the younger brothers were born, it was either the custom to speak Urdu or there was a different national consciousness which required the younger generation to be bought up differently. The family had also spent some time in Hyderabad Deccan, which might explain the Urdu.
I also noticed that while the men lived in a very modern way, there was strict purdah as far as the womenfolk were concerned. I saw cars coming in and out, their windows frosted or covered with curtains. Here was a conservative and conventional family slowly coming to grips with modern conditions in a spirit of honorable compromise but not without visible strain.
Mr. Jinnah and Miss Jinnah arrived in Lahore on 28 July, quite late in the evening. As the two stepped out of the car, they looked very happy. Almost the first words Mr. Jinnah spoke were, ‘The Punjab is now awake.’ Miss Jinnah was describing to the Nawab of Mamdot the large crowds which had lined their route from Rawalpindi to Lahore. This enthusiastic reception had refreshed them completely and there was no sign of fatigue on their faces after nearly 400 miles of a car journey and three days of strenuous public activity. The people’s enthusiasm always inspired Mr. Jinnah, he told me once. Incidentally, it was in Rawalpindi that he made his famous remark, ‘Pakistan will come sooner than I had expected.’
A few minutes later he asked me if we had arrived safely and whether the luggage was all right. He was very particular about his things and kept all important papers on him when travelling. I immediately saw and never gave him an opportunity to complain on this count through all years I was with him.
After Mr. Jinnah’s arrival, Mamdot Villa become an altogether different place. The routine that had been followed at Srinagar was completely abounded. Members of the Muslim League Working Committee and Council begin to arrive from all parts of India. The Punjab leaders were already there and some of the meetings were so long that Mr. Jinnah’s work papers had to be held up. The Working Committee was facing many internal problems, foremost among them being the Sindh question. G.M. Syed and his colleagues had revolted against the Chief Minister, Sir Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah. Syed was adamant but, at Mr. Jinnah’s suggestion, the Nawab of Mamdot and Mian Bashir Ahmed – the latter a personal friend of Syed – took him out of the Working Committee meeting and into the reception hall. In view of the serious situation facing the Muslims, Syed was persuaded to stay put.
It was here that I caught my first glimpse of most of the members of the All India Muslim League Working Committee. When I saw Chaudhri Khaliquzzaman, I knew who it was without anyone having to tell me. I don’t know how, but I just know. A car came round the drive and into the porch. Out came a man dressed in a white sherwani, white Aligarh pyjamas and white shoes. He had a slight stoop, which lent him great distinction. As he stepped out, he said to an attendant, ‘so this is Mamdot Villa!’
Pothan Joseph, the editor of Dawn, the Muslim League organ, had been summoned by Mr. Jinnah from Delhi and asked to go through the speech that he planned to deliver at the meeting. Joseph did not make any changes; he only modified the construction of a few sentences. The text was spread over eight typed pages.
I had always thought Pothan Joseph was an Anglo-Indian but he turned out to be an Indian from the South. Somehow, I had a feeling he was not very reliable, which later turned out to be true.
The Council Meeting at the Barkat Ali Mohammedan Hall was a disappointment. It was a small place, too small I thought for the meeting of a body with a membership of 475. The organizers had placed restrictions on admission and, if I am not mistaken, the Nawab of Mamdot himself was supervising the arrangements. Inside the hall, there was no order. The presidential chair and the table in front had been placed on a raised platform which was really not much higher than the chairs in front. This arrangement became even more ineffective when many of the members and councilors kept standing instead of sitting down. To boot, there were quite a few people in huge turbans with high shimlas, which made matters even worse.
However, once the proceedings began, the meeting became more orderly. Mr. Jinnah was the center of attention. The Council listened to him in utter silence and he was enthusiastically cheered. The general attitude of the Council, here and indeed afterwards, would remind me of the Roman crowds being addressed by Brutus in Julius Caesar, with the third plebeian calling out, ‘Let him be Caesar!’ The attitude of the Muslim masses and sometimes of the members of the Council was no different. Mr. Jinnah was given full powers and the meeting adjourned after adopting a number of resolutions.
Under the constitution of the All India Muslim League, the President was not only the leader of the party, but also Chairman of the House, or the Council. Perhaps it was necessary because there was not much occasion to separate these two offices as it would have produced a sort of parliament without a government and led to a division among Council members. And the Muslim League could not afford to take risks at that time. Mr. Jinnah asked for the blessing of the Council, got it and left the meeting.
We left Lahore on the night of 5 August via Delhi for Bhopal. Earlier, Mr. Jinnah had held a press conference at which he had appeared to be willing to continue the truce with the Congress. He was not very communicative but there was one sentence which has stayed in my memory. ‘Suffice it to say that Mr. Gandhi has now accepted the principal of the vivisection of India.’
Obviously, he was happy that the first round of the battle had been won. Mr. Gandhi had accepted what Mr. Jinnah had always laid down as the sine qua non of any Hindu-Muslim settlement. In a conversation with Habib Ibrahim Rahimtoola in Srinagar earlier that summer, when asked if he would or would not agree to see Mr. Gandhi, Mr. Jinnah had replied that the meeting would probably be futile, although there were many aspects which require serious consideration. The demand for Pakistan was now being taken seriously by political thinker in the United State and Britain. At home, Rajaji’s formula and his campaign had brought about a temporary softening and a ‘talk-it-out-with-Jinnah’ attitude. The attitude of the Hindu Press, however, was best expressed by the comment: ‘Mr. Jinnah is on the horns of a dilemma: accept and lose or reject and get a bad name.’ The question was, if Rajaji was sincere and had really conceded the substance of the Lahore Resolution, then how could Mr. Jinnah ‘lose’ by accepting, unless the Hindu leader had not revealed his full hand? Actually, the basic purpose of the Hindu Press was to outwit Mr. Jinnah and this had naturally made him even more cautious than he normally was.
When our train arrived in Delhi, Lobo got off, as Mr. Jinnah wanted some of his language to be sent to Bombay. We reached Bhopal and were put up at the Flagstaff House as guests of the Nawab of Bhopal. The monsoon season was at its peak and the train was late about three hours. Actually, we arrived in the early hours of the morning. The rain was coming down in torrents, but some of the Nawab’s men were at the station to receive us. Mr. Jinnah left immediately with Miss Jinnah while I saw to the luggage and followed them once it was cleared. On arrival at the Flagstaff House, I found Mr. Jinnah waiting. It seemed he was in need of a particular suitcase which he had had with him in his compartment and which was now missing. I was unhappy that this should have happened on the very first night that I was travelling alone with him. It was not a question of responsibility or anything, but I did not like to see him worried. But what a constitutional mind he had! He said to his personal valet, Phillip Mascarenhas, a Goanese Christian, ‘This is your responsibility,’ and walked up the marble staircase to his bedroom. I took Phillip back with me to the railway station and asked the station master to send a message to the next station requesting them to look for the suitcase, since it had apparently been left in the carriage. The next day we learnt that it had been found and a few days later it was delivered to us in Bombay.
The Flagstaff House, which belonged to the Nawab, was a beautiful example of modern architecture, standing on a hill overlooking the Bhopal Lake, which, at this time of the year, was quite full. I have often thought of the Rockside Guest House of the Nizam of Hyderabad and, assuming that the two rulers had any say in the way these two places were built, it showed two different persons with two different outlooks. The Flagstaff House in Bhopal had a simple grandeur about it, while the Rockside House, though much bigger, was a cumbersome and complicated structure, located on one of the main roads among other houses belonging to the Nawabs and Jagirdars of Hyderabad. The Flagstaff House stood all by itself and was ‘royal’ in every way, while the Rockside Guest House was more like a hotel or a common guest house with a number of khidmatgars, who would bow from the waist and salute you in the Moghul fashion all along the corridors, at stairways, in the halls and as you stepped out of your room.
Mr. and Miss Jinnah had a quiet holiday for four days. What a change it was from Lahore! There were very few visitors and no public engagements. The rain made it impossible to go out. Most of the time, we were confined to the house and I made it a point to spend my time in my room. I inquired if there was any local political organization or student body but was told that, though there was a couple, they had not been very active. There was a daily newspaper called Nadeem, which was subsidized by the State.
Here I should say something about Mr. Jinnah’s attitude to the rulers of princely states. He always showed them the utmost courtesy and, although he was very intimate with the Nawab of Bhopal, the Khan of Kalat and some other princes, he always addressed them in his letters as ‘Your Highness’. This could only have been Mr. Jinnah’s good manners as he never ended his letters with ‘Your Highness’s most obedient servant’ or any such thing but simply ‘yours sincerely’. He addressed the Nizam of Hyderabad as ‘Your Exalted Highness’ and closed with his usual ‘Your sincerely’. I am sure if he addressed these rulers as ‘Dear . . . ’, they would have felt flattered.
The Nawab of Bhopal was a rather short-statured man who looked older than his years. I never saw him dressed in European clothes but the way he dressed was quite unique. He wore a Jodhpur jacket with chooridars and I don’t think he would have looked better in anything else. His demeanour was most informal. At least I never saw him behaving with formal majesty. There was always a smile on his face. I was to find out how indefatigable and clear-headed this prince was when he came Delhi two years later.
Bhopal was a dirty town. Its narrow bazars and roads, its filthy streets stood in sharp contrast to the clean, modern and well-maintained newer section with its shopping centre and residential bungalows. I was taken to see a place called Bhadbhada, a few miles from the town where the rainwater had found an outlet from the lake to go roaring past the road, over rocks and stones. It was considered a local beauty spot. However, I couldn’t help thinking that its beauty depended on rainwater and when it dried up there would be nothing here but swirling dust. The beauty was at best ephemeral but the beauty of my home, Kashmir, was transcendental, depending neither on the rains of the South nor the monsoons from the Arabian Sea.
The Bombay Provincial Muslim League had arranged a public reception for Mr. Jinnah on his arrival in the city. He had agreed because he was of the view that on the eve of his talks with Mr. Gandhi, a public demonstration of popular support would be of advantage. We arrived at the Victoria Terminus at about midday on 11 August and Mr. Jinnah was taken in a procession through the main streets of the city to the Muslim League office on Mohamedalli Road. The evening papers carried pictures and detailed reports of the event. For once it appeared that the Press had recognized the existence of a forceful third party, the Muslim League. As far as the Muslims were concerned, they had already given their full backing to Mr. Jinnah in his forthcoming talks with Mr. Gandhi.
I had heard a great deal, mostly hearsay, about the fabulous wealth of Mr. Jinnah, his grand style of living and his palatial residence in Bombay. While I was looking forward to seeing Mr. Jinnah’s famous house, unfortunately my enthusiasm was somewhat dampened by the fact that I had so far not been able to make any arrangements for my own stay in Bombay. Lobo, who had returned earlier and received us at the Victoria Terminus, has told me that he hadn’t been able to find a place.
About a hundred yards down Mount Pleasant Road, from the point where it branches off from Gibbs Road, lay Mr. Jinnah’s house, perched on the eastern slopes of Malabar Hill, which project into the Arabian Sea over a tiny peninsula. As you entered through the main gates, the road went down a slope and a round big pipal tree which overlooked the front porch of the house, some of its branches almost touching the windows on the balcony above, where, incidentally, many of the historic conferences were to take place. The house was made mostly of marble and fine stone. I remember when Husseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy first came to Malabar Hill in July 1946, he remarked in his characteristic style, ‘Oh, It is a dream!’
Unlike the front, which was linear, the rear of the house was built in the shape of an arc. I had seldom seen such large rooms in a private residence. On the ground floor there was the living-room, which had been converted into an office. A drawing-room led to a small adjoining office and a private study. Opposite the main hall was the arched verandah and towards the left was the main drawing-room. Towards the right there was another large reception room which led into the dinning-room. On the near side there was another passage which led to the staircase and on to the kitchen. On the first floor there were Mr. Jinnah’s bedroom, Miss Jinnah’s bedroom and two guest rooms. The balcony over the main hall, to which I have already referred, was Mr. Jinnah’s favourite. He used to work in his office below when he was practicing law, but now the balcony had become his office. The rooms were sparsely but tastefully furnished. There were hardly any decorations on the walls.
But to come back to my own little housing problem; it seemed that Lobo, unable to rent a flat or even a room in Bombay, had been living in the office, sleeping on the table, with his luggage scattered around the bathroom. On my first afternoon in Bombay, he and I went out together, inquiring at different places for rooms but nothing seemed to be available. I began to get a feeling of great unease. I too spent that night in the office and the next morning I thought that unless something better came along, I should move into one of the servants’ quarters. I suggested this to Mr. Jinnah, who replied that while he was really sorry that this was the situation, the servants’ quarters were meant for servants. The rooms were very small and not very comfortable; however if they could be put to use, he certainly had no objection to it. I did not like to tell him that there were two guest rooms on the first floor because I well remembered that in Srinagar he had been quite specific on the question of accommodation and having accepted that, I had no right to ask him now. Besides, the guest rooms were in the main house and if I stayed there, it could disturb both Mr. and Miss Jinnah, besides limiting my own independence.
The search for a flat proved futile. There was only one thing left to do, so taking my courage in both hands, I went to Mr. Jinnah and told him that though one had tried one’s utmost, on account of the war nothing could be found unless one was willing or able to pay a few hundred rupees. Perhaps if Mr. Jinnah could ask the Bombay Muslim League people, they might be able to help, I added. He did not like the suggestion; that I could see from his face. But he paused for a moment and said, ‘This is your affair and you should do it yourself.’ I then explained that I would not have come to him had I not found it impossible to rent a place. The subject was thereafter dropped and never raised again.
My only anxiety was not to say or do anything which might prejudice our relationship. I had never looked at my work with Mr. Jinnah as a job or as a means of making a living. Had that been the consideration, I would either have returned to Kashmir after failing to find accommodation or perhaps never gone to Bombay in the first place. In my mind, there was never any question that I would have to make the best of the situation and my circumstances. But what was mere personal comfort compared to the ideals that inspired me?
The room which I occupied was something of a compromise between a servant’s living quarters and a room in the main house. Perhaps it was meant for the head butler. Facing the pantry, it was physically detached from the servants’ quarters. And that was where I lived all the time we were in Bombay.
As the month drew to a close, Mr. Jinnah gave me a fifty per cent raise in salary, saying, ‘I brought you here and it is my responsibility to look after you.’
I was rapidly adjusting myself to my new environment and my new work, which fell into four categories. There was the telephone to attend to, correspondence, visitors and drafting of messages and routine letters. In addition, I also kept in touch with the Press. All important letters and statements were dictated by Mr. Jinnah. Messages to conferences and newspapers or those issued on special occasions were drafted by the secretary.
These duties, however, were never defined. Perhaps a private secretary’s never are. Until August-September 1944, I was still picking up the work which was being mainly performed by Lobo. I thus had the opportunity to observe and appreciate what was involved. Later, when Lobo had left and I worked alone, I found that I had to do everything myself, whether it meant the purchase of stamps or posting of letters. Press clippings had to be pasted and kept on file. Last, but not the least, were the accounts of the All India Muslim League, which Mr. Jinnah had in his charge as President of the party.
Mr. Jinnah was a stickler for routine, and extremely punctual. Almost everything happened with clockwork precision. He was up at seven when his personal valet, the boy Phillip Mascarenhas, entered his bedroom with tea on a tray, and the day’s newspapers. These Mr. Jinnah scanned for an hour or so and then went to the bathroom. Phillip would lay out his clothes, having prepared his bath earlier. Promptly at a quarter past nine, Mr. and Miss Jinnah would come down by the lift and head for the dinning-room for breakfast, which was over by 10 o’ clock. He would then start his day’s work.
It almost invariably began with visitors. Appointments were made in advance and noted in his dairy. The visitors met the Private Secretary first, who then informed Mr. Jinnah of their arrival. They were shown to the balcony on the first floor, but if Mr. Jinnah was on the ground floor, they were taken to his study. This took up most of the morning. Whenever there was a break, he would attend to his correspondence. I sometimes felt that Mr. Jinnah was rather overdoing his work. He personally opened all the letters addressed to him. He personally received all the money orders and cheques, signing or countersigning them. He also received all the registered letters and signed for them. My first reaction was that perhaps he did not trust anyone. But as time passed, I changed my opinion. The explanation lay in his immense sense of responsibility. There were occasions during those stormy years when the flood of correspondence became almost unmanageable. Miss Jinnah would then come to help and the two of us would open his letters and telegrams.
Because of the forthcoming talks with Mr. Gandhi, there was an atmosphere of great suspense and expectancy in the country. There were times when it appeared as if even Mr. Jinnah was hopeful about the outcome of the talks and believed that the congress had sincerely made up its mind to the partition of India. Although he was not one to build castles in the air, he doubtlessly felt that the great moment was approaching.
Unfortunately, Mr. Jinnah caught a chill and came down with fever. His doctor, Jal Patel, a Parsi, strongly advised complete rest and the meeting with Mr. Gandhi had to be postponed. He was telegraphically informed of Mr. Jinnah’s indisposition.
I remember some of the pressmen suggesting to me that it was perhaps a ‘diplomatic illness’. I was amused by the suggestion. That was how their minds worked. Obviously, these gentlemen of the press were used to such ploys from other politicians and naturally applied the same standards to Mr. Jinnah, forgetting that he was a different type of man, incredibly straightforward and brutally frank. The famous telegram in which he referred to Maulana Abul Kalam Azad as a ‘show boy’ of the Congress was resented by some Muslims as well, but all through my years with him, never once did I hear him make excuses or try to cover up his candid nature and opinions with false or superficial sweetness. Honey-tongued diplomacy was not his style. In 1947, when Dr. Syed Hussain, who was in Delhi, rang him up for an appointment, his reply was characteristically straightforward and brief: ‘I cannot see you; you are a traitor.’ Mr. Jinnah believed that he was serving a great cause and his faith in that cause was unshakeable. Little wonder that he regarded those members of the Muslim intelligentsia who had decided to stay in the Congress as traitors. He felt that such Muslims knew the Hindu mind, understood the techniques of Hindu policy but stuck to the Congress because they lacked the moral courage to speak the truth.
The break provided by Mr. Jinnah’s illness proved a great help as far as the forthcoming talks with Mr. Gandhi were concerned. The Government of India released the correspondence Mr. Gandhi had been carrying on with the Viceroy until almost the very day on which the meeting with Mr. Jinnah had originally been scheduled. This gave Mr. Jinnah the material and the time to further analyze the motives of Mr. Gandhi and Rajaji in seeking to meet him.
Elaborate arrangements had been made by the authorities for the meeting between the two leaders. The whole of the Malabar Hill area had been closed to the public, except for the residents there and, of course, Press correspondents and photographers. To enter Malabar Hill a special pass was necessary. Entry to Mr. Jinnah’s residence could only be on the basis of passes authorized by me. Mr. Jinnah had told me not to encourage the pressmen too much; they were not to be allowed to enter the main house, although they welcome to hang around along the lawn. And they were to be served only ice-water.
One day, however, I took a photographer to the verandah at the back of the house as he wanted to take a shot from the rear. I think Miss Jinnah saw us and duly reported the ‘infringement’ to Mr. Jinnah because the same evening I was called in. Sarcastically, Mr. Jinnah said, ‘Mr. Hassan, I understand you allowed a photographer to enter the verandah in the rear. But hadn’t I given you my express instructions that no photographer or press correspondent is to be allowed into the main house?’ I replied, ‘Sir, I thought there would be no objection to his taking a picture from the rear because after all they do have to take pictures.’ Mr. Jinnah said, ‘Yes, but you shouldn’t think once my express instructions have been given.’ I said I was sorry and returned to my room.
Frankly speaking, I was rather upset. Although our relationship was still formal, I felt that his attitude was not right, but if I were to follow his instructions to the letter, I was in the wrong. A few days later, while we were disposing of some papers, he said, ‘You are my Private Secretary. You should look after me. I may say something on the spur of the moment which may not sound good. Sometime I may be upset about something.’ This was followed by a long discourse on the theme: Why the Press should be kept at arm’s length.
He said I did not have much experience in dealing with ‘these people’ and he wanted me to learn and understand. His manner was so paternal and kind that I felt very light afterwards and the heaviness that had lain on my heart for the last few days vanished. I suddenly began to look at my work in a new light altogether. Mr. Jinnah had elevated the nature of our relationship to a new and higher level. I knew that this was the real Mr. Jinnah speaking now, not the businesslike man he had earlier appeared to be.
On the first day of the Jinnah-Gandhi talks, Mr. Jinnah announced that the two of them would not meet the following day (21 Ramadhan) because of the anniversary of the martyrdom of Hazrat Ali. I was rather surprised as there had been no mention of it earlier. Perhaps, being a Shi’a, this was the one day he might have remembered from his childhood. Apart from that, there had been telephone calls from a number of Muslims saying Mr. Jinnah should not see Mr. Gandhi on the anniversary of the martyrdom of Hazrat Ali.
This being the month of Ramadhan, on the 26th it occurred to me that it would be Shab-Qadr the next day, observed far more widely as a holiday by Muslims than the anniversary of Hazrat Ali’s martyrdom. A few minutes before Mr. Gandhi’s arrival, I told Miss Jinnah to bear in mind that 27 Ramadan was a holiday. After they had finished for the day, Mr. Jinnah called me in and asked me to explain to Mr. Gandhi what Shab-Qadr meant. He said he had hold Mr. Gandhi that it was the very day when the Quran was revealed, then added, ‘But tell him about it.’ I think I gave Mr. Gandhi quite a bit of information on the subject but he sat through it with an expressionless face, huddled in his low chair. I think he did not like the talks being put off by another day; however, he accepted Mr. Jinnah’s decision resignedly.
Usually, Pyare Lal accompanied Mr. Gandhi. He seemed a simple Punjabi Hindu and was a model of courtesy and good manners. Like a devoted disciple, he carried Mr. Gandhi’s food, which consisted of a glass of milk, some fruit juice and a couple of chappatis. Mr. Gandhi usually talked or listened as he ate.
On 11 September, while the talks were in progress, Mr. Gandhi made a statement at his prayer meeting which said that Mr. Jinnah had hold him that if the two of them failed to come to an agreement, they would be only giving proof of their ‘bankruptcy of wisdom’ as leaders. Mr. Jinnah told me he had never said such a thing to Mr. Gandhi and the next time they met, Mr. Jinnah told him that he (Mr. Gandhi) had been ‘unjust’ to him, adding, ‘I never told you that.’ Mr. Gandhi’s reply was, ‘You see, Jinnah, I have said it now.’ It wouldn’t have done to make a public contradiction at the very start of the negotiations.
Mr. Jinnah told me on two later occasions that on the first day of the talks, Mr. Gandhi had begun by saying, ‘Well, Jinnah, you have mesmerized the Mussalmans.’ To which Mr. Jinnah had immediately replied, ‘And you have hypnotized the Hindus.’ The talks were not conducted in an atmosphere of rigid formality, as the Jinnah-Gandhi correspondence published later tended to suggest. The terms of the C.R. formula, or the Gandhi formula or the Lahore Resolution were not discussed in the threadbare manner in which the two leaders did discus them when they corresponded. They understood each other perfectly on political questions and, consequently, there was not much to talk about. Mr. Jinnah, however, had one important point to plead and repeatedly emphasize with all his power of advocacy to Mr. Gandhi: the Muslim identity in India.
He told me that when an agreement appeared close, he said to Mr. Gandhi, ‘You remain quiet and don’t talk about your non-violence stuff. The League shall fight the British. We will know how to deal with them.’ Those who were associated with Mr. Jinnah in the Home Rule League knew what a great fighter he was. Had he chosen the profession of soldiering, he would have made a great general. However, to come back to the talks, Mr. Gandhi’s attitude had become almost exasperating. He would go over the same things again and again. This is also evident from the so-called second formula that he came up with, which was actually identical to the C.R. formula. It was quite clear to Mr. Jinnah that Mr. Gandhi was anxious to stretch the negotiations, probably because he expected some move from the Viceroy’s House. This aspect of the talks was most tragic because it showed that all they were calculated to achieve was a threat of ’united opposition’ to the British Government so that it would yield to the Congress. Until the very end, it was Hindu policy to seek an award from the British Government, leaving the Congress free to come to a settlement with the Muslims. However, this was a double-edged weapon. During the entire process, there was not a single gesture of goodwill or magnanimity from the Congress towards the Muslims. Indeed, the Congress did not have a solution and did not even pretend to recognize that the minority problem existed.
However, Mr. Gandhi, having fired all his guns once, had little option but to load and reload them with the same ammunition. Later, in 1946, when we visited Bengal on an election tour, R.G. Casey, the Governor of the Province, whom Mr. Jinnah met a couple of times, told him that Mr. Gandhi, who had visited the Province not long before, would repeat ‘the same story’ every time they met.
The Eid festival fell during the negotiations and Mr. Jinnah asked Lobo and me to ‘put your heads together’ and draft a message for him to issue. Poor Lobo was in a fix and could not think of what Mr. Jinnah would want to say on such an occasion. I prepared a draft, therefore, which I took to Mr. Jinnah, who approved it. However, he was not sure if the phrase ‘to close ranks’ could be used in a general sense or if it was only specific to the army. He was not satisfied till he had looked it up in the Webster dictionary. He restored to the dictionary another time when he was reading through the C. R. formula which referred to the ‘absolute majority’ of voters in a plebiscite in favor of partition. I do not remember a third occasion in my years with Mr. Jinnah when he needed the help of a dictionary.
In 1947 in Karachi, however, the Muslim League Working Committee seemed divided on the correctness or otherwise of the phrase ‘calling the bluff’. Some members had suggested that ‘the Congress bluff had been called off’ was correct, while others insisted that the word ‘off’ should be dropped. At that point, Liaquat Ali Khan asked me what I thought it should be and my ‘verdict’ was accepted as one coming from a ‘neutral person’.
By the time we went to Delhi in November 1944, I felt that I had gained sufficient knowledge of my work and duties. Here again I faced the problem of where I was to stay. Some arrangements had been made at the central office of the Muslim League, nearly four miles from 10 Aurangzeb Road where Mr. Jinnah lived, and it was quite a problem getting there every morning in a tonga, the only available means of transport. It was too far to walk, especially with the approach of winter and its colder, shorter days.
Mr. Jinnah’s 10 Aurangzeb Road house was much smaller than the one on Malabar Hill, Bombay. There was always a camp-like atmosphere about it, though I liked it much better than the Bombay house. In the small office and the equally small reception room, everything felt snug and warm. Mr. Jinnah’s study served as his library and sitting-room. I much preferred it to the outsized rooms of Malabar Hill. The New Delhi house was built by Sir Edwin Lutyens, who had planned some of the buildings of the Government of India in the capital, and was characteristic of British homes in that not an inch of space had been wasted. The hallway led into a round lounge and there was a gallery on the first floor. One could enter the study from the lounge, the dinning-room, the verandah as well as from the guest room. Mr. and Miss Jinnah had their bedrooms on the first floor, reached from the gallery which was supported by black columns, lending the lounge below a simple yet classical grace.
Earlier, one Ahmad Ali from Peshawar had joined the staff. He had been with Khan Bahadur Saadullah Khan, and Malik Tajuddin of the Associated Press had recommended him to Mr. Jinnah. He left a couple of months later to join the navy.
The annual session of the All India Muslim League was to be held in Lahore and preparations were already under way. Some of the Lahore leaguers came to New Delhi to finalize the arrangements, which gave me an opportunity to get to know them.
Mian Mumtaz Muhammad Khan Daultana would always remain etched in my memory. He stepped down from his big car and, with stooped shoulders and a smouldering pipe, walked softly into the hall. I had the impression of a man who would like to tread softly and make his way unobtrusively, but I also felt that there could be a touch of the sinister about the way he would make his approach. When he spoke it was always, ‘Hello, Sir, how are you?’ and he frequently used ‘Bhaijan’. His affability had the polish of his Oxford English accent. Then there was Sardar Shaukat Hayat Khan, boyish and insouciant, his speech a bit affected, not uncommon among army officers; and, finally, the Nawab of Mamdot, tall, elegant, handsome, quick of glance and economical with words — an open book. These were the ‘three musketeers’ from the Punjab. There was also Sheikh Karamat Ali, sophisticated and intelligent, but his lack-lustre eyes did not inspire confidence. Perhaps the Punjab needed a leader with Mamdot’s nobility, Daultana’s intellect, and Shaukat’s military claptrap.
These stalwarts from the Punjab, who came bearing gold, frankincense and myrrh, were followed by the leaders from the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). The war had offered the party an opportunity to form a government there but reports of corruption and maladministration had begun to fill newspaper columns through India, forcing Mr. Jinnah to summon the entire NWFP cabinet to the New Delhi. They came, headed by Sardar Aurangzeb Khan, Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar—his second-in-command and close rival—Samin Jan Khan and Raja Abdur Rahman. This was a different crowd compared to the contingent from the Punjab. There was Sardar Aurangzeb Khan, growing old and corpulent, for whom the times were ‘out of joint’. And Nishtar, bland, cautious, impressive, his eyes darting back and forth, Samin Jan Khan and Raja Abdur Rahman, with their Pathan kullahs and baggy shalwars, their sun-burnt faces lined with age and experience. The Frontier leaders had the wisdom of their years and the forthrightness which is a mark of the Pathan race, whereas the Punjab leaders, fresh and full of raw enthusiasm but lacking in experience, epitomized the revolution of youth.
The Quaid-i-Azam met them one by one, starting with Sardar Aurangzeb Khan. Nishtar stayed on the longest and it was then that he made his mark with his well-prepared and well-presented arguments. Mr. Jinnah saw something in the younger man because, from that day on, Nishtar remained in his thoughts. Even earlier, in May 1944, when Nishtar had presided over the Muslim League Conference in Sialkot, he had earned wide praise. He had also been nominated to the Committee of Action that the Quaid had set up.
We returned to Bombay at the end of November. Ahmed Ali left shortly afterwards as he felt that the excitement he had expected was not there. In Peshawar, as an assistant on the staff of K. B. Saadullah Khan, he had got used to saying one thing to one man and something else to another, depending on what was politically expedient for his chief. All means were justified. However, at Malabar Hill, it was a different story, which only shows how much difference a single Individual’s will and character can make. With Mr. Jinnah as the leader, the entire character of Muslim politics had changed. Here, Ahmed Ali was not expected to exercise his gift for prying into the rival party’s secrets. He did not have to speak to the Congress camp as a Congressite, to British officials as a sympathizer of the Raj, and to the Nationalist Muslims as a great Nationalist Muslim. Politics with Mr. Jinnah was a scientific and principled operation involving no trickery. The stakes were higher but the pace was slower. Ahmed Ali found that he did not fit in and left. I bought his bicycle before he went and it served me quite faithfully.
The most important aspect of Mr. Jinnah’s character was that neither he himself nor his colleagues or lieutenants were to resort to the tricks and double-faced deals usually associated with politicians. He played an open hand and he played according to the rules. That was his nature. If he received information about his colleagues or the Muslims in general, it was information which had been given voluntarily. He had also given strict instructions to members of his Working Committees in the different provinces that they were to keep in touch with him. A regular correspondence was also maintained with them, though much of it was of a routine nature. He never encouraged Muslim journalists to spy on Congress or British Government circles, though it was well known that British journalists, as a rule, carried every bit of information, however obtained, to the Viceregal Lodge and the Hindu journalists worked hand in glove with Sardar Patel. Seldom seen at Mr. Jinnah’s house, for example, was the editor of Dawn — the paper founded by the Quaid himself — or even reporters working for it.
My policy was to encourage the Orient Press of India, that being the only Muslim news agency and a new one at that. I raised the subject with Mr. Jinnah one day in Delhi. What he said I will never forget: ‘Encourage them by all means but let them struggle like the others. If you oblige them, they will tend to look towards the Muslim League only.’ It must be said that whereas the other agencies had the strong backing and patronage of either the Congress or the Government, the Orient Press of India had a very poor service which we could not rely on exclusively. What was more, it had no links with any foreign agency as the Associated Press of India had. In the absence of a strong Muslim Press, a strong Muslim news agency was perhaps difficult to organize. Bearing all these facts in mind, I came to the conclusion that it would be definitely injurious to rely exclusively on the Orient Press of India and this remained the policy throughout.
In the first week of January 1945, Mr. Jinnah paid a visit to Ahmadabad to inaugurate the Bombay Presidency Muslim Educational Conference over which Qazi Isa was presiding. Mr. Jinnah was given a tremendous reception. The Muslims of Ahmadabad seemed very well-organized and quite well-to-do. We stayed in small and exclusive estate, some miles out of the main town with a number of modern houses, both large and small, all built and owned by Muslims. I would never have imagined Gujarat would have such a beautiful landscape beyond the banks of the Sabarmati River.
At least since I had joined him, it was the first time that some money was publicly offered to Mr. Jinnah for the Muslim League. We returned from the meeting at about midnight but he would not go to bed until all the money had been counted, which was done by Miss Jinnah and myself. Later, when we were touring Bengal, at certain places the over-enthusiastic crowds would throw handfuls of rupees at Mr. Jinnah and often the money would be chucked with such force that it would come in through one window of the car only to go out the other. One also had to duck to avoid injury. However, so thick were the crowds that most of the money showered on the Quaid was lost, as nobody could have possibly retrieved it from the ground. Mr. Jinnah’s reaction was one of regret that the money had been lost to the party and disgust that the people were so careless.
He thought one of the reasons why the Muslims of Bombay had made great advances in the fields of commerce and education compared to the Muslims in other parts of India was that they realized the value of money, thanks to their business traditions. I would never have expected Mr. Jinnah to use a Hindi proverb, but, while making a speech in a mosque on this tour, he said:
Galay main mala
Mukh pay mangal
Baggal main churri
This, he added, explained the Congress attitude towards the Muslims.
Here in Ahmadabad, Mr. Jinnah clarifies the Muslim League attitude to the Quit India Resolution passed by the Congress. He spoke with strong feeling about a settlement between Hindus and Muslims and his advice to the Congress was characteristically patriotic, which, if accepted, would