India and Pakistan – nations separated at birth – naturally, chose two different fathers. Muhammad Ali Jinnah became Baba-i-Qaum (Father of the Nation) of Pakistan while India adopted Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi as its fatherly figure.

The two men had a lot on in common. Both were lawyers, were of Gujarati extraction, studied in England, fought the British and eventually gave birth to independent countries.

But that’s where the similarities ended. Jinnah was a sophisticate – a man who preferred tailored linen suits, chomped on oysters and pork, loved caviar, sipped champagne and religiously avoided Friday prayers.

In sharp contrast, Gandhi was a man of the masses – he travelled third class in trains, prayed regularly, dressed in khadi, was strictly vegetarian, self-administered enemas twice a day and loved goat milk.

Physically, they looked very, very different.

This is how Dominique Lapierre & Larry Collins’ seminal book on the Indian independence struggle and partition, Freedom at Midnight, describes Gandhi:

He was a tiny man barely five feet tall, weighing 114 pounds, all arms and legs like an adolescent whose trunk has yet to rival the growth of his limbs. Nature had meant Gandhi’s face to be ugly. His ears flared out from his oversized head like the handles of a sugar bowl. His nose buttressed by squat, flaring, nostrils thrust its heavy beak over a sparse white moustache.

Without his dentures, his full lips collapsed over his toothless gums. Yet Gandhi’s face radiated a peculiar beauty because it was constantly animated, quickly shifting patterns of a magic lantern his changing moods and his impish humour.”

In sharp contrast, Jinnah is described by the authors as the classic patriarch. This is how Freedom at Midnight describes Jinnah:

He was almost six feet tall but weighed barely one hundred and twenty pounds. The skin on his face was stretched so fine that his prominent cheekbones below seem to emit a translucent glow. He had thick, silver-grey hair, and curiously enough for a man whose sole companion for seventeen years had been a dentist, his sister – a mouthful of rotting yellow teeth.

 So stern, so rigorously composed was Jinnah’s appearance he gave off an aura of steely, spartan strength. It was an illusion. He was a frail, sick man who already, in the words of his physician, had been living for three years on ‘will-power, whisky and cigarettes.”

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  1. The greatest difference between the two men was elsewhere : where Jinnah lived & died for tearing a nation forcibly into two or three, Gandhi lived & died for keeping the nation unified. And the most momentous difference lay I’m their death : while Gandhi died a martyr’s death facing a bullet with an open chest, Jinnah died a mongrel’s death rotting away with lung cancer & flies swarming his dying visage. What greater difference can be imagined ?

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