The new Jinnah in India’s parliament will be argumentative

March 22nd, 2008 - 12:01 pm ICT by admin  

By T.S.V. Hari
Chennai, March 22 (IANS) “I cannot hope to match my debating skills with those associated with my famous name,” says S. Amir Ali Jinnah, one of the six members elected to the Rajya Sabha from Tamil Nadu. The 67-year-old quickly follows up the humble opening gambit with: “As an advocate I have argued a lot in courts. Probably, the experience will help me in my parliamentary contributions.”

Jinnah will be the first MP in the Indian parliament with a name matching that of Pakistan’s founder leader, Mohammed Ali Jinnah.

Having returned from a Friday worship to mark the birthday of Prophet Mohammed, Jinnah’s voice is hoarse.

“The mosque where I said my prayers just now was air-conditioned,” the devout Muslim offers as an explanation.

His neatly combed diadem of hair and matching moustache, both clearly dyed, enhance the youthful appearance of this birdlike man who is equally proficient in English and Tamil.

Belonging to Tiruvarur, the hometown of Chief Minister and DMK chief M. Karunanidhi, Jinnah shares his leader’s abhorrence of Hindi.

“Scientifically, everyone feels easy to express thoughts in their mother tongue. Notwithstanding the language formula of the centre, English remains the expression of law in India and a channel of communication worldwide. I have adequate knowledge in both,” Jinnah points out, clearly avoiding any reference to Hindi.

Jinnah was jailed for a year in the 1970s for agitating against the imposition of Hindi in Tamil Nadu.

When told that his first and second names denote wealthy royalty and bravery in Urdu, Jinnah looks askance.

The Muslims of the Thanjavur rice-bowl in central Tamil Nadu seldom know the nuances of Urdu. Jinnah is no exception.

However, his debating skills help him divert attention from this handicap in a light banter.

“My name rhymes with ‘Chinna’ meaning small. Probably it has the same connotation in Arabic. I remember reading somewhere that it is a corrupted version of the English term ‘genie’ - a small beneficial sprite,” Jinnah says with a chuckle, sidestepping comparisons with Mohammed Ali Jinnah.

But there is no rancour in this first time MP for those who underline their Hindu faith strongly.

“A healthy exchange of political thoughts is always welcome, regardless of the fact to which policy someone subscribes to. The simple truth is that all of us are Indians. Isn’t that enough?” asks Jinnah, as he gets ready to meet the DMK chief and seek his blessings.

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