Muhammad Ali Jinnah, founder of Pakistan, was a brilliant, terribly disciplined, odd man.
One of the best legal minds of his time, he was barely religious, favored linen suits which he changes several times each day to keep up with Bombay’s famous humidity.
He read every newspaper in town, made neat notes and clippings and pasted them on a notebook. He even ensured that the flower beds in his gardens were in neat straight lines.
According the Freedom at Midnight, the seminal book about Indian independence by Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins, Jinnah loved the good life: “oysters, champagne, brandy and good claret.”
He despised Jawaharlal Nehru though, whom he is said to have described as “a Peter Pan”, “a literary figure who should have been an English professor, not a politician.”
So, naturally, when Lord Louis Mountbatten, the Last Viceroy of India, was supposed to meet the Jinnah to discuss the impending partition of the country, the latter wanted to impress not just Lord Mountbatten but also his wife, Edwina.
Jinnah was told that he would be photographed with the Mountbattens. He assumed that Edwina would stand in between the two gentlemen. Keeping this in mind, Jinnah had rehearsed a smart “little line to flatter Edwina Mountbatten.”
Here’s how Freedom at Midnight describes what happened next:
Alas, poor Jinnah! It was he and not Edwina who wound up in the middle. But he couldn’t help himself. He was programmed like a computer, and his carefully rehearsed line just had to come out. ‘Ah’ he beamed, ‘a rose between two thorns.’
Basically, Jinnah made himself the rose and the Mountbattens the thorns.
Like we said, it’s better to be spontaneous with compliments.