Out of the Picture

Why a legendary calligrapher has been denied the Padma Shri for 16 years

01 January 2017
Manzooruddin was commissioned by the Indian government to write sipasnamas, or words of praise, for various important personalities, including the last king of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
parth gupta for the caravan

On the morning of 31 August, I sat across Salahuddin, son of the famous calligrapher Manzooruddin, inside the large living room of his Matia Mahal home in old Delhi. As we talked about his father’s work, he fetched a khaki-coloured envelope full of documents from the adjacent room.

“I’ve kept a record of everything,” Salahuddin said, picking out a letter from the papers.

“In each and every field artists are encouraged but the calligraphic art has been neglected so far,” the letter reads. “Keeping in view his”—Manzooruddin’s—“outstanding services, it is requested that his name be recommended to Padma Shri committee for the consideration of Padma Shri award.” Other documents in the envelope included numerous news features on Manzooruddin’s achievements, recommendation letters from politicians of various parties, and scanned samples of his work.

Basit Malik is an independent journalist based in Delhi.

Keywords: Delhi art Urdu Calligraphy Padma Shri Civilian honours