Here is a brilliant write-up by Ali Eteraz (also the author of Children of Dust (HarperCollins, 2009), about coming of age as a rebellious Muslim), on the decreasing use of the original, traditional Nastaliq script for Urdu and the use of the Naskh script instead, in technology. Is it indeed the death of the Urdu script in this new age?
Urdu is traditionally written in a Perso-Arabic script called nastaliq, a flowy and ornate and hanging script. But when rendered on the web and on smartphones and the entire gamut of digital devices at our disposal, Urdu is getting depicted in naskh, an angular and rather stodgy script that comes from Arabic. And those that don’t like it can go write in Western letters.
Here’s a visual comparison taken from Wikipedia:
Looking at the picture, the discerning eye may immediately realize why naskh trumps nastaliq on digital devices. With its straightness and angularity, naskh is simply easier to code, because unlike nastaliq, it doesn’t move vertically and doesn’t have dots adhering to a strict pattern. And we all know how techies opt for functionality.
Utility being the mother of expansion, naskh is quickly phasing out nastaliq on the web. BBC-Urdu and Urdu Voice of America both use naskh; so does Alarabiya Urdu. And if you want to write an SMS in nastaliq, you must use naskh as well. Same holds true for social media: Facebook, naskh; Twitter, naskh; blogs, naskh.
Another excerpt: There is one more reason why nastaliq matters. It is, literally, calligraphy become language. Until recent decades, young boys and girls in Indian and Pakistani schools carried around rectangular wooden board called a takhti. On these, using a bamboo reed pen and an inkwell filled with a little gauze to make the dipping easier, they practiced writing every letter of the Urdu alphabet with painstaking care. Then when the lesson was over they washed the ink off the board and smoothed the surface with a bar of stucco clay and started on the next lesson. I worked on a takhti when I was living in Pakistan. The earthen smell of a freshly washed and resurfaced board haunts me to this day.
Click here to read the entire article: https://medium.com/writers-on-writing/9ce935435d90