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A Calligraphed Urdu Newspaper

Calligraphy, considered to be one of the highest art forms in Islamic world resulted in  beautiful writings in mosques and various calligraphed Qurans. The practitioners of that art form are getting killed or not finding people to carry it forward.

In India, there is still one calligraphed Urdu daily newspaper, The Musalman, but it too faces an uncertain future.

Here in the shadow of the Wallajah Mosque, a team of six puts out this hand-penned paper. Four of them are katibs — writers dedicated to the ancient art of Urdu calligraphy. It takes three hours using a pen, ink and ruler to transform a sheet of paper into news and art.

In the meantime, the office is a center for the South Indian Muslim community and hosts a stream of renowned poets, religious leaders and royalty who contribute to the pages, or just hang out, drink chai and recite their most recent works to the staff. The Musalman publishes Urdu poetry and messages on devotion to God and communal harmony daily.

But the Musalman has survived and operates much as it has since it was founded in 1927. The biggest change came in the 1950s when Fazlulla unloaded a massive offset printer from a cargo ship. He salvaged the machine from a defunct American newspaper, and the paper has used it ever since.

Each katib is responsible for one page. If someone is sick, the others pull double shifts — there are no replacements anywhere in the city. When calligraphers make mistakes they rewrite everything from scratch. They earn 60 rupees (about $1.50) per page.

The final proofs are transferred onto a black and white negative, then pressed onto printing plates. The paper is sold for one cent on the streets of Chennai. [A Handwritten Daily Paper in India Faces the Digital Future]

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