Does technology popularise or endanger calligraphy?
Calligraphy has historically been not just a creative style of writing but also a visual art form in the city. However, its disappearance from Delhi’s aestheticism is rather pitiful. While not everyone believes that it is dropping out of sight, calligraphers who practice the art in its pristine form feel its death is impending.
National Award winner for Calligraphy in Wood Carving, Irshad Hussain Farooqi is one of the few celebrated calligraphers who use the Quranic verses in their artworks, a valued art in the times of the Moghul rule. With much anguish, he says, “Calligraphy is increasingly taking a step back in Delhi’s culture.” Blaming the intrusion of computers, the veteran decries, “Not many wish to learn calligraphy today because of a diminishing market.”
While Hussain looks hopeful as he wishes for a better platform for artists, as fine arts teachers in schools or through the setting up of public institutes for display of calligraphic art, the calligraphers in Old Delhi, are sure of a laborious end to their unquestionable passion. Arif Mohammad Yakub, an artist hired by a book shop in the Urdu Bazaar, breaks into a song as he laments about the fading art. Another aged artist in the Bazaar who writes on posters, wedding cards, etc. understands how the computer is producing all of the work earlier done by the calligraphers by hand. He adds, “The youth is interested in learning calligraphy as a hobby, but nobody wants to take it up professionally.” This is also a cue to declining quality of work.
Institutions that earlier provided a diploma or a credit course in calligraphy are also being brought to a halt. Hussein, a former student of the Ghalib Academy that offered a diploma, recognises the difficulties of continuing studies in calligraphy. “With not many students joining the course and being pressed for lack of funds, curtains to the institution seem only fated,” he says.
According to Qamar Dagar, a renowned practitioner of pictoral calligraphy, a contemporised form of calligraphy, “Calligraphy is gaining momentum again.” As she talks of a revival of calligraphy, she emphasises that the common man has more exposure to calligraphy than he did five years ago. Another noted contemporary artist and graphic designer, Nikheel Aphale, who practices calligraphy in the Devanagiri script, adds, “Technology has taken calligraphy to another level. Calligraphic fonts can be digitized which makes the art more popular.” Calligraphy by hand has a niche market, according to him, catering to people who wish to indulge in an art with a personal touch attached to it.
Hussain, who also teaches calligraphy, believes in fostering this art form by “closing gaps between centuries” but is not sure whether there are zealous youngsters today to keep the art alive.