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Syed Manzooruddin: a master calligrapher
By Manzar Imam

In the medieval period Moradabad was a centre of arts and sciences and was a home of great masters of almost every art and science. There were printing presses even before Independence where books of Arabic, Persian and Urdu were published. Calligraphy too achieved its glories here. Born in 1923 Syed Manzooruddin of the same soil who made his people proud is one such great master of penmanship.

After schooling in his native town in Moradabad, Syed Manzooruddin sat before various masters of calligraphy and started his career as a calligrapher in 1937. He wrote for the then famous newspapers Jiddat, Muslim League and Mukhbir-e-Alam, published from Moradabad.

In 1944, he came to Delhi and outshone here. He wrote for the famous Unani pharmacy of Hamdard. The owner of the pharmacy and founder of Hamdard University, Hakeem Abdul Hameed appreciated his work. The Urdu label of Sherbet Rooh Afza is a living example of his art skill. He also wrote for monthly Hamdard Sehat, fortnightly Hamdard Akhbar and for the house medical book Dehati Mu’alij. His penmanship of Tarjama Masnawi Maulana Room (6 volumes) by late Qazi Sajjad Hussain, special advisor of Hamdard Pharmacy and principal of Madrasa Aliya Fatehpuri Masjid Delhi, is an example of his masterpiece. He also wrote books of other famous writers such as the editor of the daily Qaumi Awaz, Hayatullah Ansari and Prof Nisar Ahamd Farooqui, to name a few. He wrote Tablighi Nisab for Madina Book Depot which is now known as Fazail-e-A’maal. He wrote 21 books of late Maulana Abul Hasan Zaid Farooqui. He also wrote 21 novels for Hind Pocket Books. Late Shaikh Abdullah, former Chief Minister of J&K highly appreciated his captions for Nawabasta Conference.

Besides Urdu, he has good command over Persian, Arabic, Sindhi, Kashmiri and Pashtu calligraphy. Iranian King Raza Shah Pahlawi thrice came to India and every time the welcome-address presented to him was written by Syed Manzooruddin. He also wrote welcome-addresses to President Gyani Zail Singh, Morarji Desai, Venkat Raman and a Saudi Ambassador to India.

He has no disciples except two of his sons whom he taught the art. When asked if computer had affected the profession, Manzooruddin replied ‘yes’, it has affected it to a large extent.’ Several Urdu journals and monthlies have published dozens of special numbers on various personalities, but none has bothered to publish any special number on this great master of calligraphy. However, he does not complain for not having been given any award, but he is a little annoyed for the response of some of the authors specially Muslims as some of the books that he wrote are still lying in his house and these authors have not even paid his dues. Asked about award, his son S Salahuddin told this correspondent that whatever feats you do there is no reward for you except that you have a close rapport with the organizations and institutions conferring awards. He said that Muhammad Tahsin who is confined to writing posters received award by Delhi Urdu Academy but when we tried for the award we were spurned as we enjoy no contacts. An enquiry was made to award him Padma Shree but so far there has been no response.

The master calligraphist who served his art for 56 years is now leading an isolated life in Delhi’s Matia Mahal house number 465. 

A calligrapher plays an important role in spreading literature but none seems to acknowledge Manzooruddin’s services.
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