With digital technology, information spreads around the world at the speed of light. Type it or record it, send it, and it’s there, in different corners of the world. Some people find it hard to argue against leaving books in the basement and read a book on a digital device, and cancel the newspaper subscription to read the news online. So why is it that every day, in the city of Chennai, in India, a popular daily newspaper is written entirely by hand?
Well, because there are many places in the world where technology and tradition live in harmony, where innovation doesn’t have to obliterate tradition be. The Musalman is a handwritten newspaper in Urdu language and has existed for 90 years.
It was established in 1927 by Syed Azathulla, and today it is edited by his grandson Syed Arifullah, who took over the job after his father passed away. Besides Arifullah, there are also three specialist calligraphers called katibs who write the newspaper, and three reporters who seek out news.
Calligraphy has a special place among the Muslims in India because it is rooted in religion The post of katib in the ancient world is one of high honor. These traditional writers or scribes were highly skilled in the art of writing, and the accomplishment of such artistic calligraphy skills are even today held in high regard.
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In the past, all the Urdu newspapers followed the tradition of being handwritten, up until the 1980s. However, while other newspapers adapted their printing processes to keep up with changing digital technology, The Musalman has continued to keep the traditional method alive. The four-page evening paper is painstakingly crafted by hand.
Any mistake, and the whole page has to be reworked. Even many of the advertisements are hand drawn, although they are often submitted digitally. A negative of the finished product is used to make the printing plate, and this is how it has been published every single day since 1927.
“Calligraphy is the heart of Musalman. If you take out the heart, there is nothing left,” said Arifullah in an interview for the Daily Mail.
The newspaper’s office has the most modest facilities in the 800-square-foot building. But nothing inhibits the team’s enthusiasm. The employees are entirely devoted to their job, believe in it, and are ready to do their work until their “last breath,” as the chief reporter, Rehman Hussain, recently put it. As Arifullah says in an interview for the Khaleej Times, they are all like one family.
The Musalman has correspondents all over the country, including Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai, and New Delhi. The newspaper has subscribers located all over these places too. They are mostly Muslim, but there are also Hindus who know the Urdu language and read the newspaper, which has a circulation of 21,000 copies daily. Besides the subscribers, people can find The Musalman on newsstands for less than a rupee.
There are also many famous people–religious leaders, royalty, writers, and poets–who contribute to the newspaper. The writing of The Musalman is an art, and all the members of the team enjoy it. As for any late-breaking news, in the past, it meant that an entire page had to be written again, but today there is always a blank panel left in the corner of the front page that serves for such news, provided it has reached the newsroom before 3 P.M.
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With such a modest cover price, the newspaper’s revenue comes mainly from advertisements, which is sufficient to cover the salaries of the workers. Most of them are from the government and various agencies. although there are some from private organizations. The newspaper is commonly black and white and makes exceptions only if the advertisement asks for it.