The Musalman: The Last Handwritten Newspaper in the World

Tucked away in the crowd­ed south­ern Indi­an city of Chen­nai, in the shad­ow of the Wal­la­jah Mosque, is an unflat­ter­ing build­ing. But what hap­pens inside the build­ing is remark­able. Every day since 1927, a ded­i­cat­ed team has worked tire­less­ly to cre­ate a hand­writ­ten news­pa­per, The Musalman (in Urdu: مسلمان). Today, there’s a team of six work­ers who work on the news­pa­per dai­ly. Four of the work­ers are known as kat­i­bs, writ­ers ded­i­cat­ed to the ancient art of Urdu cal­lig­ra­phy. They have the most mod­est of facil­i­ties: two wall fans, three light bulbs, and one tube light in an 800-square-foot build­ing. But watch­ing the video, you learn how this news­pa­per has sur­vived for three gen­er­a­tions — every­one who works there is absolute­ly devot­ed to the task. In fact, they are pre­pared to work on The Musalman until their “last breath,” an unde­ni­able pas­sion.

In the mod­ern era where almost every pub­lished work is cre­at­ed dig­i­tal­ly, it is refresh­ing to see the tra­di­tion of cal­lig­ra­phy endure with The Musalman. We can only hope the rest of us can appre­ci­ate The Musalman’s his­to­ry and its efforts to sur­vive as much as its ded­i­cat­ed read­ers do.

To learn more about The Musalman, read this Times of India sto­ry. For more about the world’s hand­writ­ten news­pa­pers, please see this post on Brain­Pick­ings.

Eugene Buchko is a blog­ger and pho­tog­ra­ph­er liv­ing in Atlanta, GA. He main­tains a pho­to­blog, Eru­dite Expres­sions, and writes about what he reads on his read­ing blog.

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.