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Hyderabad: In a world bent on frugality and speed with keyboards and keypads dictating the terms of the written word, calligraphy is losing the battle to downloadable fonts. If calligraphers were sought by kings in the past, politicians, businessmen, advertisers and anyone who wanted to make the written word look beautiful went to them in modern times but with the advent of digital era, they are losing ground.

Till the 70s calligraphers were dime a dozen in the city, but today their number can be counted on finger tips. The Idara-e-Adabiyat-e-Urdu one of the prominent centres where calligraphy is taught was once packed is a pale shadow of its former self. Mohammed Abdul Gaffar, master penman and centre in-charge, Idara-e-Adabiyat-e-Urdu says, “The Telangana government approved calligraphers post in state Urdu medium schools three years ago but till date there has been no appointment.

Calligraphy has survived for centuries and the government needs to keep it alive.” Calligraphy, once a major source of income has fallen on bad times and many who made a living have now switched to other jobs. Farooq, a calligrapher unable to make both ends has become an assistant to a lawyer.

In India, the art of calligraphy dates back to the 2nd century B C. Different forms of calligraphic texts range from Devnagri to Islamic styles. Zaheeruddin, an Urdu school teacher, Armoor who was part of the team that prepared the calligraphy book for primary and high school students says, “In the place of music and dance in art and craft class, calligraphy was included after a representation was made by Urdu teachers. Calligraphy helps children to develop good handwriting and learn patience”.

Mohammed Abdul Gaffar says, “Urdu has 36 letters and each letter has three shapes. A student who learns Urdu language with the help of calligraphy can never go wrong.”  Concurring with the view, Dr Moid Jaweed, head of the department, Urdu, Osmania University says, “Calligraphy can help a great deal and there have been several reputed calligraphers in the city.”  

Apart from its meditative appeal, calligraphy became a meditative art. Prateek, an engineering student who is learning calligraphy as a hobby says, “It is soothing and slows one down. It is not just learning to write well in a decorative manner but also helps a person internally; I experience a sense of calm.” All is not lost the magic of calligraphy can get a new lease of life if the government appoints calligraphy teachers as promised, says Mohammed Abdul Gaffar.

By T P Venu