Writing on the wall for oldest calligraphed paper

7 July 2007

The newspaper is 80 years old. Its editor-in-chief is 76. There are six employees, and the chief reporter is a Hindu. Together, they bring out The Musalman, the Urdu daily newspaper from Triplicane in Madras, probably the last handwritten newspaper in the world.

But its future is uncertain because the paper is handcrafted by four katibs and Urdu calligraphers aren’t quite growing on the trees. The newspaper (circulation 20,000) has no clear successor who would produce it in its handwritten form when editor Syed Fazlulla can no longer do the job.

His son Syed Nasarulla, who runs a greeting-card business out of a loft directly above his father’s office, is a reluctant heir. “There is no practical reason we have not gone to computers. If my father asks me to take over I will take over, but there will be changes,” says the son.

“Urdu is sweeter when written by hand,” says the father.

Mussalman‘s roster: C. Balasubramaniyam, Rehaman Hussein, Khursheed Begum, Shabana Begum

***

Read Scott Carney‘s full story: A handwritten daily faces a digital future

View the slideshow here: News calligraphers do it on deadline

Photo courtesy: Scott Carney/ Wired

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