Author Jane Goodall said, “What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” It appears Begum Zubeida Habib Rahimtoola always knew that she was destined to bring about positive and lasting change in society.
The second daughter of Sir Sultan Chinoy, Begum Zubeida was born in Mumbai on August 12, 1917. She married Habib Ibrahim Rahimtoola, who became Pakistan’s first High Commissioner to the Court of St James in London in 1947, and was destined to walk and talk with all the greats of South Asia at the time of Independence and Partition. Her father-in-law, Sir Ibrahim Rahimtoola, was the first Indian to be appointed President of the Imperial Indian Legislative Assembly in 1930 and was also president of Jinnah’s Muslim League when it met in Pune in 1933. He was a fervent believer in a separate homeland for the Muslims of India, but died in 1942 before this dream could be realised.
Social and political activist Zubeida Habib Rahimtoola.
Before the age of 30, Begum Zubeida interacted with the greatest political figures who contributed to achieve the independence of India and the immediate creation of Pakistan. Figures like Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Fatima Jinnah, Raana and Liaquat Ali Khan, Jawaharlal Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi, King George VI, Queen Elizabeth II, Lord and Lady Mountbatten, Winston Churchill, King Hussein of Jordan and Aga Khan III were known to her personally.
Begum Zubeida was a remarkable lady who not only saw but also partook in the most significant time in the history of South Asia. She was an avid social worker and one of the founders of the All Pakistan Womens’ Association (APWA) and Friends of APWA and was awarded the Sitara-e-Khidmat in 1960.
Begum Zubeida passed away peacefully with her family by her bedside on July 5, 2015, at a hospital in Karachi. She leaves behind her three children Zeenat Chinoy, Farouq and Maqbool Rahimtoola, seven grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, July 19th, 2015.