Mumbai: The Once-Dying Art of Calligraphy is on the Road to Renewal | Bombay News


Mumbai: Several burqa-clad women and a lone man crowd into a small classroom on the ground floor of a shopping complex in Jogeshwari (W). Their ustad or teacher, Mehmood Ahmed Shaikh, 58, keeps a close eye on the practice pages held in front of the students, watching like a hawk. Dipping the nib of a pen made from dry, hollow, thin bamboo sticks into an inkwell, the teacher explains: “Calligraphy requires patience. It trains you to be focused and focused.
Thanks to committed master calligraphers like Shaikh, the ancient art of khatati or calligraphy is in revival mode. The contraption that received a massive shock due to the arrival of digital typography has found new friends, sometimes even from unexpected counters. The art of Urdu and Arabic calligraphy are in revival mode and are now attracting many passionate practitioners.
“Main zehni sukoon ke liye seekh raha hoon (I am learning it (calligraphy) for mental peace),” says Mansoor Ali, a management graduate.
As of 2019, Shaikh’s Alfaz (Words) Calligraphy Classes run in two batches per week with over a dozen students, mostly female, in each batch. “Before the pandemic, it was twice a week. Once the number of students increases, we will do it again twice a week, ”explains Shaikh, whose father Abdul Haque was a master calligrapher who had distinguished himself in preparing copies of the Koran.
Lokhandwala-based housewife Shahida Shaikh always wanted to have good writing skills. “I am fascinated by the way the Quranic verses are written. Now that my children have grown up (one son is a pilot in an airline while the other is a trainee pilot), I am learning the art that I have always wanted to do, ”exults Shahida as she writes a curvaceous letter on a blank sheet.
While Shahida was drawn to art out of fascination with Quranic words. Mangesh Naik, a resident of Ghatkopar, an engineer, was drawn to calligraphy because of his friends. “I would be struck by the sacred frames that hung in the homes of my Muslim friends. I met Ustadji (Mehmood Shaikh) at an Indian calligraphy festival – Califest – a few years ago at the Nehru Center and decided to become his disciple, ”he says.
In fact, there is a growing interest among non-Muslims to learn calligraphy. Aslam Kiratpuri, master calligrapher of the “Nastaliq School,” who also teaches a certificate course in Urdu calligraphy at Mumbai University, says that out of 30 students in his class, seven are non-Muslims. “Non-Muslim students are more diligent and dedicated. They surprised me with the kind of perfection they have in art, ”says Kiratpuri, especially mentioning Ramanuj Shastry. He had started to learn Urdu and was fascinated by calligraphy. One day he found out that the University of Mumbai had introduced a calligraphy course and he joined in. In a social media post, Shastry praised his Ustad (Kiratpuri): “It was a privilege to listen to a true master explain calligraphy and a pleasure to see him work. Eternal gratitude to Ustad sahab for his generosity, his encouragement and his precious gift of calligraphy, it was a source of much joy and serene contentment.


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