Saga of a calligrapher
Note: It’s a fiction and in response to daily challenge from daily post.
I am a research student and my subject is “art forms that have with time gone into oblivion and now slowly dying”. Across the world in various countries we could come across various art forms that have either slipped into sand dunes of time and lost their identity completely or on the verge of extinction. caligraphy is one such art. Beauty of this art inspired me to know more about this. So I found my subject to begin my research. I started my journey into the narrow lanes of Chand Bazaar (Moon Market ficticious name). These lanes were once hustling and bustling with people but now wrapped under the blanket of silence. These lanes were once home to the artists who inked beauty with their Kalams (pens) and ink and they were equally admired by the patrons of art. But with the computers and modern printers making inroads into the markets art and artists both lost the demand. Many accepted the change against their will purely for survival but still few eyes are longing to see if the old glory will be revived and this art reaches the zenith it was once placed at. Rustam bhai, is one such calligrapher whose determined heart despite of ripe age believes calligraphy will see glorious days once again. Its his story, saga of his romance with caligraphy.
After persisting for long Rustam bhai agreed to give details of his journey. In the long lanes of the market Rustam bhai lived at the end of the street. It was a bright Sunday morning, 8 AM, Rustom bhai slowly climbed down the stairs of his tiny apartment. “Good morning Sir” I gently wished him. A smile on his wrinkled face as he gently acknowledged my wishes and signaled me to sit on the chair next to his even tinier shop just below his apartment. He opened it and asked if I would like to have tea, I said ” no thanks”. He took out a wooden box and proudly showed me his assets. Ink bottles and nips, pens of various colors and sizes. “So how long have you been practicing calligraphy?” I asked him. “Since the time when a child could hold a pen and scribble and now I am 80 years, can you guess how long? Its our family business, generations were into this. We had royal patronage. I have seen my grandfather, father, uncles putting their hearts in inking beauty. I won’t say efforts because we enjoyed our work. It gave us a feeling of fulfillment as an artist”. Was it rewarding too was my question. ” Yes of course, like you won’t believe. We had a flourishing business. On the occasions like marriages we used to open our shop at 5 AM and reluctantly close around 12 AM next day, such was the demand and rush”. “You said reluctantly, why so?” I questioned. ” body needs rest too, at least couple of hours, don’t you think so” he chuckled. “But now we are struggling to make ends meet, everyday is a battle for survival. So much technological advancement in the world of printers have seen our downfall. With everyone running against time want to save every second and gradually loyalties shifted. I don’t want to blame anyone. But disrespect hurts” he said with moist eyes. Now I could feel his pain choking his throat. “Many times my wife suggested me to take up job in the nearby press as the responsibility to look after my family was on me. I eventually did so. It did gave me an income but my heart yearned to go back to first love, my art. I married off my daughters, helped my son to settle in his life. Now free of all responsibilities I have decided to spend my remaining days romancing my pens” he laughed. So do you see people visiting your shop often now? What about your friends and colleagues who practised the same art with you? I asked him. “On a lucky day I attend four to five customers, so you can estimate my fortunes as not all days are lucky. I am not in touch with all my mates as everyone is busy with their struggles but who so ever I am in touch with have more or less same story as mine. Compromised for families, few decided to continue their lives as it is while few trying to muster courage to begin second innings of their lives”. Can I see some of your work? Can you show how it is done? I asked him curiously. With shaking hands he opened another box, in fact a treasure. One by one he started showing me his work, piece of sheer beauty, different occasions, different fonts, different colors but one thing that was uniform throughout was beauty. Couldn’t stop myself from admiring it and I could see the pride in Rustam bhai’s eyes while showing me his work. With his withered fingers he then grabbed a paper and started weaving pure magic on it with ink. I was awe-struck.
It was noon now , I got up to leave but he insisted to have lunch with him. Finally I gave in and decided to have lunch with him as I was hungry too. During lunch I asked him if he wants to pass on his legacy to the next generation. For this he said ” I am not sure if my kids want to treasure this art or not as they often associate calligraphy with all the struggles they have seen, they know their bit but it depends upon them if they want to see it thriving again or not, I can not thrust my opinions or wishes on them. But for my grandchildren I will definitely impart this art to them but again its their decision” he said. Do you still believe that this form of art could see sunshine again? I asked. For this he simply said as every high has a low, every low will have a pinnacle. I firmly believe that as technology is a rage now, a day will come when people want to have a change and start respecting art again. I may not be on earth in this body but my soul will find solace on that destined day”. We finished our lunch and I took leave from him. My day was productive as I met an artist in true sense, learnt about the art and more importantly love of an artist for art, his passion which refuses to die despite all the hardships.
My mind was full of memories. What I heard today is a truly a saga.