Jinnah was a puzzle that has yet to be solved. People can tell you the most outrageous stories about the man and swear on it being honest to God truth. Or they can churn him out to be the man they wanted him to be. So who was Mohammad Ali Jinnah? Was he a statesman that fought for the right of a people who he shared a religion with? Was he a man who married for love and then lost his daughter to a land that was home and then became foreign territory? Was he a civilian with the fire of a freedom fighter or a villain with a vendetta?
I approached the subject with caution and I relied on the people who knew the man and the image that was and is Mohammad Ali Jinnah.
They remember him.
Sahibzada Yaqoob Khan, who had been Jinnah’s ADC, struck me as a man who would have wanted to be just like the Quaid. He resembled him so, in appearance and in stature. He wove stories about Jinnah as a man who was true to his word, a fine statesman and a man with a mission to win freedom for people that yearned for it. He painted the Quaid as a man of few words and I left with the image of a guard who lovingly protected a very guarded man.
F. E. Chaudhry, a photojournalist who took many an exclusive picture of Jinnah, changed that image. F. E. Chaudhry was an observer. A man who didn’t personally know Jinnah but watched his every move and snapped it into pictures that will last forever. For F. E. Chaudhry, Jinnah was a man who didn’t laugh but had a twinkle in his eye. A father who loved children, a prim and proper fashionista, and a frail man with an iron will.
Ardeshir Cowasjee, a columnist who met Jinnah, was a slippery one. It was difficult to get him to express his viewpoint on the man that was without a touch of bitterness. He spoke of Jinnah’s liberalism and his desire for diversity of people and tolerance of religions. But his memories all came back to the troubles of today. And whether this was Pakistan that Jinnah would have wanted. Let’s just say, whenever the subject of modern-day Pakistan came up, I had to edit a lot of what Mr Cowasjee had to say since I knew it would not pass censorship.
Air Marshal Asghar Khan and A. H. Dani, Jinnah’s neighbour, spoke of Jinnah as the image. Both had had personal encounters with the founder and remember him fondly. They provided me with the brighter side of their memories. Where a man struggles to fight and wins in the end. The perfect movie. With really bad sequels.
So did I figure him out? I don’t think it’s possible to do so, without having met him or having known him. One always regards other people’s opinions with suspicion. Quaid-i-Azam is a puzzle that shall never be solved. And I imagine that he, the man with a mission and a twinkle in his eye, who would have liked it that way.
‘I Remember Jinnah’ first aired on DawnNew TV as an Independence Day special on 13th August, 2008, will air on Thursday, 25th December at 4:05 pm and again 7.30 pm on Friday.