SOME 16 months before Pakistan came into being, the Time magazine ran a cover story on India — more specifically on Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah — and declared that it was Jinnah who would decide whether India stood one or partitioned. A greater part of the article (April 22, 1946) was devoted to the social and political ambience in which Jinnah operated. It dwells considerably on Jinnah’s sartorial tastes, on his very physical being, and opines: “With his perfect English, which he speaks better than his native Gujerati, his slick grey hair and graceful, precise gestures, he might be a European diplomat of the old school.”

The writer quotes poetess Sarojini Naidu: “Tall and stately, but thin to the point of emaciation, languid and luxurious of habit, Jinnah’s attenuated form is the deceptive sheath of a spirit of exceptional vitality and endurance.”

All India, the article says, “watch[es...] Jinnah’s words and actions.” Clad in angora cap, a long black sherwani and tight-fitting black churidar on his wire-thin legs […] Jinnah, it says, is “at the peak of his power.” He is “the man who might say whether one-fifth of the world’s people would be free. His 5ft. 11in and 119lbs [stand …] between India and independence.” Today, “Jinnah, and not the hated Hindu Gandhi, is the prima donna on India’s stage.”

(Wonder why the artist who visualised the cover showed one of three tigers coming from the northern border where Chinese and Indian forces today face each other in an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation.)

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