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Jinnah: One of Lincoln Inn's Best & Brightest

The boy who studied law in spite of his father, and went on to become one of Lincoln Innís youngest graduates, Jinnah was a bright, restless and cultured young man. BrainGain magazine brings you a pen portrait of the liberal intellectual whose life shaped an entire subcontinent.
BY Resham Mukherjee |   26-08-2015



Jinnah was born Mohammedali Jinnahbhai to a Gujarati family in Karachi, which was then a part of the Bombay presidency. His birth year is disputed but school records claim it to be October 1875. His grandfather, Poonja Gokuldas Meghji, was a Hindu, who had supposedly converted to Islam. Though his mother tongue was Gujarati, Jinnah could also speak Kutchi and Sindhi, aside from English.

One of eight children, young Jinnah was educated in the Sind Madrasatul Islam, and the Christian Missionary Society High School in Karachi, before he left for London. Jinnah was known as a restless student, who changed several schools before he passed the matriculation examination from the University of Bombay at the age of 16. He shortened his name to ‘Jinnah’ during his stay in London, when he was studying law.

Jinnah sailed to England in January 1893,  in mid winter, when he was a young boy of 17. His mother Mitthibai strongly opposed his departure but he pacified her saying that the family would be proud when he returned from England.

The youngest passenger onboard, Jinnah was assisted by an Englishman during his journey. He advised Jinnah about life in England and invited him to meet his family as often as he could.

He landed in Southampton, and took a boat train to Victoria Station. Initially, he rented a modest hotel room but soon moved to other accommodations. Finally he put up as a house-guest at 35 Russell Road in Kensington, the house of Mrs. F. E. Page-Drake, a widow, who took an instant liking to Jinnah’s style and manner. Jinnah apparently had the first-floor bedsitter - now known as the Jinnah Room - overlooking the Russell Road. This house today has a blue and white ceramic oval saying that the ‘Founder of Pakistan stayed here in 1895′.

Strange people and unfriendly weather, precisely the fog and winter chill, upset Jinnah much. His father had deposited enough money in his account in a British bank to last him for three years but Jinnah’s judicious spends helped him save even after three and half years of his stay.

Initially, Jinnah joined the Graham's Shipping and Trading Company as an apprentice.  The firm was owned by his father’s business associate, Sir Frederick Leigh Croft, After some two months he left the job and approached the Lincoln’s Inn, a renowned legal association, to study law.  Jinnah’s father was infuriated as he wanted Jinnah to study Mathematics, a subject Jinnah disliked. So Jinnah began his legal studies at Lincoln’s Inn.

While in England, Jinnah was influenced and fascinated by the fresh British liberalism, which in a way introduced him to politics. He often visited Hyde Park and the visitor’s gallery at Westminster’s House of Commons.

Jinnah had special interest in Shakespearean plays and a deep interest to act in them, which did not go down well with his father. In London he even acted in some dramas. It was his dream to play Romeo in the play ‘Romeo-Juliet’ at The Globe theatre in London. In London, British democratic principles and tenets of liberalism inspired Jinnah’s love for personal freedom and national independence. He studied biographies and political texts from the British Museum Library while preparing for his legal exam. He would visit the House of Commons and even assisted Dadabhai Naoroji, the first Indian Member of Parliament. It was perhaps here that he discovered a passion for nationalist politics. A passion which shaped not only the rest of his life but an entire subcontinent.

In 1896, Jinnah became the youngest man ever to have been accepted to the bar. With his law degree in hand, Jinnah returned to Bombay and set up a law practice as a barrister in Bombay’s high court. He was only 20.

At the young age, Jinnah had shown both brilliance and fortitude. He had weathered the rough climate of England and risen to its challenges. The Jinnah who returned to India was a liberal nationalist, and an intellectual. His journey thereon was one that none, who then knew him, could have foreseen.

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