The Last Calligraphers



A film by by Premjit Ramachandran. "While the Musalman is a Muslim newspaper, it is a hub of South Asian liberalism, employing both women and non-Muslims. Half the katibs are women and the chief reporter is Hindu. Staff members say that Indira Gandhi, former prime minister of India, once called the business the epitome of what modern India should be. Fazlulla believes the handwritten pages are crucial to the paper and to the tradition of handwritten Urdu. For centuries, handwriting was the definitive mark of social status, education and liberal values in India. Calligraphers mastered the swooping Urdu script in ivory-tower institutions and penned copies of the Koran for wealthy patrons. The pinnacle of a katib's achievement meant a seat at court and a chance to earn the sultan's ear. Similar to spoken Hindi, Urdu is a mixture of Arabic, Persian and local Indian languages. It originated in the army camps of Muslim rulers in Delhi and has been the language of poets and artists because its rich roots draw on so many traditions across various cultures." - Scott Carney The Musalman is probably the last handwritten newspaper in the world and has been operational since 1927. Here is their story.