Dina and Indira: Two different destinies

This is a story of two political families, two daughters and their interfaith marriages and two different destinies.

Like India and Pakistan, these two women share a common history but different destiny.

August 1947 saw the birth of two independent nations, India and Pakistan. There were two leaders on both the sides, Nehru and Jinnah who had common political ambitions but different political strategy. Both the leaders also happened to be a father to a young and bright girl.

The two leaders were destined to rule the newly formed countries and made full use of the opportunity that was bestowed on them.

The two highly anglicized leaders had a daughter each who happened to be their only offspring, and their respective wives died a lonely and painful death.

Dina Jinnah was born oddly enough, precisely twenty-eight years to the day and hour before the birth of Jinnah’s other offspring, Pakistan writes Stanley Wolpert in Jinnah of Pakistan. Her mother died to due to Colitis, and her father took solace in carving out a separate nation.

Indira Nehru was born in Allahabad on November 19, 1917. Her mother died due to tuberculosis, and her father was busy due to his political commitments.

Both Indira and Dina were bought up in an open, free and liberal environment and were indulged by their parents. Their respective fathers were wealthy to boot and received English education and were entirely in awe with British culture. But the doting fathers could not digest when their young and lovely daughters married outside their religion posing a considerable threat to their political empire and larger than life persona.

Dina married Neville Ness Wadia, an Indian from prominent Parsi industrialist family and took Indian citizenship after marriage. Jinnah disowned Dina (not legally) and had a particularly tricky relationship with Dina. Both father-daughter exchanged letters, and Jinnah referred to her daughter as Ms. Wadia. Dina separated from her husband few years after marriage and chose to settle in New York in the later part of her life. She had two children from this marriage and passed away today at the age of 98. She fought a contentious and protracted case with the Indian government related to a palatial house, popularly known as Jinnah House. She demanded that house is handed over to her as she is the sole heir to Jinnah’s legacy. She claims that as Jinnah was a Khoja Muslim, Hindu customary laws applied rather than Islamic laws of succession. She visited Pakistan only twice, first in 1948 to attend her father’s funeral and the second time to attend a cricket match in Lahore during 2004.

Indira too married a young and idealist Parsi, Firoz Khan. It is well known that Nehru was quite unhappy with the alliance and dissuaded Indira from marriage. The young couple married and gave birth to two sons. Soon after, it is speculated that she separated from her husband.

Within a few years, she emerged as one of the most powerful and popular Prime Ministers of India. She was initially seen as a political and intellectual lightweight and dumb doll and was catapulted to power because she was Nehru’s only child.

With the rise of Indira Gandhi, began the culture of loyalty and sycophancy that has plagued the Congress party till this day. Like her father, she went a step ahead and institutionalized the system of dynastic politics in India. Her younger son was being groomed to handle the political power, but his untimely death led to the emergence of the elder son as a political heir.

Her elder son took the political legacy from his mother, and the political baton was passed to his wife after his violent death. The daughter in law is also gearing up to hand over the political reigns to her son now.

While Dina, never claimed the space in the political history of Pakistan but Indira manipulated her name and space in the political history of India eternally and forever.


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