Journalism has drastically changed over years and generations have migrated to mobile phones and tablets to keep them informed. Those who still survive in the world of print are desperately mulling to revamp, to become ‘digital first.’ Amid this, in a resilient and elegant corner of Chennai, a manuscript newspaper, perhaps the world’s last one, is still, not just surviving but going ahead.
For Syed Arifullah, the current Editor in Chief of the Urdu language evening paper The Musalman, it is not just journalism, but preserving a tradition. At 324 Triplicane High Road in Chennai, the staff literally write the headlines every day.
The newspaper was started by Arifullah’s grandfather Sayed Azmatullah in 1927, which was later handed over to his son Syed Fazalullah and now his grandson.
We have been working since the pre-independence and grandfather was the founding editor. We have surpassed three generations and still going ahead with remarkable impact and I am proud that we are preserving the traditionSyed Arifullah, Editor, The Musalman
The paper covers every issue identical to any other newspaper, basically depending on freelancers across the country.
“When the daily was founded, the prime focus was on issues faced by the Muslim community. Now, we cover issues like any other newspaper,” Arifullah told SouthLive.
In Chennai office, three calligraphy artists known as Katibs, take an average of three hours to complete a single page of the four-page evening newspaper. It gets tiresome at times as mistakes can lead to a whole page being scrapped and rewritten. Earlier, the pages were also re-crafted for late-breaking stories, but now a blank panel in the corner of the front page does the job.
Further, it converted into negatives, printed and distributed to 21,000 subscribers. The paper is also available on newsstands for Rs. 400 annually.
With a single edition, the subscribers are located all across the country, in Delhi, Mumbai and even Kolkata. The Musalman is not limited to Muslims, “many Hindus also subscribe to us, those who know the language,” the editor says.
For Arifullah, it is a passion beyond the profession. “We have been maintaining the tradition for the last 90 years, I decided to dedicate my life to The Musalman,” Arifullah, who took on the role of editor in 2008, after his father Syed Fazlullah passed away, narrates. Though his siblings don’t work at the newspaper, “everybody is together” when it comes to the family business.
When the printing technology was introduced, almost all newspapers adopted to it, but art and calligraphy have always remained the soul of The Musalman.
The Muslaman is all about calligraphy, everybody is attracted by the calligraphy, if we switch to computer then what is there difference between us and other newspapers?Syed Arifullah, Editor, The Musalman
Many subscribes the daily to enjoy the art of calligraphy, the editor adds. “Calligraphy is the heart of Musalman. If you take out the heart, there is nothing left.”
For the chief reporter Rahman Hussain, it is a vocation. “God has given me an able body and strength. I intend to work for The Musalman until my end,” Hussain adds.