Living by letters

CANDID CAMERA: A tourist films a few lettering experts at work. — Photos: Satish H

CANDID CAMERA: A tourist films a few lettering experts at work. — Photos: Satish H  

Lettering-experts in the Old City cry hoarse as computers take the credit for their creativity.

THE DOZEN-odd men on the edge of the Jawaharlal Nehru Road towards the Old City (as you proceed from Moazzamjahi Market), couldn't have cared less about their own names. A few letters, pieces of stone or steel, names for someone else and a `nameless' life for themselves — these handful professionals (called lettering-experts) live by embossing and etching nameplates to be cemented on tombs or gates, for identification and recognition respectively.

In business for over three decades now, the nameless lot has carved over 3,00,000 nameplates collectively. However, they now live a life bereft of all artistic repute. Blame software programmes, which have robbed them of their `small-time' business acumen, and a flattering clientele. "Our creativity has suffered a great deal because of computer-aided designs. Work has become easier no doubt, but the thrill of the art is no more at hand, as appreciation is less," rues Kohinoor Granite & Marble Works, manager, Mohd. Shuja-ud-Dullah. The work, which previously used to take them half-a-day, can now be completed in just 15-20 minutes.

CARVING NAMES: Keeping the tradition alive.

CARVING NAMES: Keeping the tradition alive.  

Seconding him, Nadir, manager, Azeem Marble Works, says, "Although the charges were less then, the work was exciting as it called for a high degree of artistic skills and precision. With computerisation, originality has suffered." Now, all these artists have to do is produce a replica of the letters on computer screen, on marble or granite, steel or brass, as per the demand and requirement.

While the artwork on marble and granite is called engraving or embossing (if done in reverse), etching is the effort on steel and brass. The charges are reasonable. For example, Rs. 120 is charged for a 6ft. x 12ft. granite slab, Rs. 80 for a marble slab of the same dimension. "For every letter over 200 letters, Rs. 4 to Rs. 5 is usually charged in excess," says Hezekiah of Grand Granites.

"In case of brass etching, Rs. 10 per inch is the charge," he adds. A Shahbad-rock tombstone (2.5ft. x 1ft.) comes for Rs. 220.

Ever noticed the `unsigned' granite plates tiled on the statues at Tank Bund?


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