Calligraphy: A Casualty of Technology

Widgetized Section

Go to Admin » Appearance » Widgets » and move Gabfire Widget: Share into that BigPicture-Share zone

In a dimly-lit room at Srinagar’s congested downtown, Mohammad Ayoub, 60, dusts his stacked collection of old newspapers.

Memoir of his ‘golden past’, the collection forces an expression of despair onto his face. Ayoub was a calligrapher who wrote countless newspapers with his hands in the pre-computer era. The way the silverfishes have eaten their way into the newspapers now reflects how the calligraphers and the calligraphy were jolted by the advent of technology.

“The nibs of our pens have dried out and most of the Katibs (calligraphers) have switched professions,” Ayoub says.

Calligraphy came to Kashmir with the arrival of Mir Sayid Ali Hamdani (RA) as he brought along Persian calligraphers; soon the art flourished.

The calligraphy was used to write religious texts, official orders and, later on, to write newspapers as well. Over the years, calligraphers grew in importance as Mughal kings as well as their successors engaged them in royal work.

“Till the start of ‘1990s, calligraphy was very important, as everything scribed using this art became a part of literature and history,” Ayoub adds.

Ayoub now owns a readymade garment shop at Alamgari Bazar, Srinagar.

“The computer ‘revolution’ forced me to quit calligraphy,” he says. “I agree that computers make work a lot easy, but can these machines produce the elegant art that our hands once did?”

“The only encouraging thing for us is that a few art-loving writers still want their books to be hand written,” he says.

Ayoub says he worked with many literary organisations, with his works including several books that he claims to have written for the Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Languages (JKAACL).

“I have also written verses of the holy Qura’an, contributed to a Kashir dictionary (dictionary in Kashmiri language), and produced many other splendid pieces,” he says.

Bashir Ahmad, a contemporary calligrapher of Ayoub, describes how the calligraphers created some “fantastic” fonts and styles.

“The fonts and styles were unmatched. No machine could ever create what our hands did,” he says.

Bashir has upgraded his skills by learning computers, and continues to work for a local newspaper. But he is neither jobless nor satisfied.

“These electronic monsters (computers) hit the wherewithal of many of my friends,” he laments.

A section of calligraphers, however, appear to argue that health hazards associated with calligraphy also led to decline of the fine art.

“Calligraphy is a difficult art, for it takes time and a lot of patience. It also harms the eyesight, forcing many calligraphers to give it up,” says Zahoor Hashmi, editor of the daily Aftab, a local Urdu daily.

“I gave 30 years of my life to this art, and its heart wrenching to see it fade away,” Hashmi says.