Here’s some food for thought for our technologically advanced and fast-paced society of today – The Musalman, an Urdu daily newspaper that is published in Chennai, India is perhaps the last handwrittennewspaper in the world today. A four page newspaper with a circulation of about 21,000 copies daily (according to the Registrar of Newspapers for India), Musalman’s essence is its beautiful calligraphic style of Urdu handwriting.
The newspaper was founded by Syed Azmathullah in 1927. In 2008, owner-editor Syed Fazlullah died, leaving the paper in the hands of his youngest, Syed Arifullah, who now runs the paper.
The paper consists of four pages. The front page has local and national news. Page two has international news and editorials. Page three contains Hadith, quotes from the Qur’an and (incongruously) sports. The last page has “everything”, says Arifullah, with a focus on local news. Some space is left blank at the bottom right corner of the front page, in case there is some breaking news. There are ads from local businesses, “exhibitions, circus, new products”, and even Aligarh Muslim University.
The calligraphers, known as katibs, write the copy out on paper with quills and ink, taking three hours per page, and paste all the items on a form. If a mistake is made or a news update arrives, the page is rewritten. The form is turned into a negative, which is used to make the plate for printing.
Why Urdu? The decision was taken by Arifullah’s grandfather Syed Azmathullah when he founded the paper in 1927. “There was no voice of Muslims in the south,” Arifullah explains, at that time.
Below is an 11-minute film on The Musalman that was released on YouTube by the Ministry of External Affairs’ Public Diplomacy Division, which beautifully encapsulates these last calligraphers, their daily work of art and their love for Urdu that drives this passion.
Source: Excerpts taken from a Business Standard article dated May 21, 2011 and from wikipedia.org