Ghalib of Urdu calligraphy

Katib Ghalib at his workplace in Urdu Bazar, Old Delhi

New Delhi: The last calligraphist of Urdu Bazar in Old Delhi, Mohammad Ghalib sits in a small Urdu bookshop opposite Gate No. 1 of Jama Masjid. He has been a katib (calligraphist) for the past 35 years.

Originally from a small village located seven to eight kilometers away from Shahjahanpur district, he learnt calligraphy in Darul Uloom Deoban. “I had no plan as such to take this up as a profession. We had many subjects to study and this was one of them”, he says.

“Back in my days there was a huge demand for katibs. But as technology advanced, we stopped getting as much work as we used to. I am the only one left in Old Delhi. There used to be two more calligraphists here, but they have become very old now.

“With age it gets difficult to keep up with the art. I sit for hours together while doing calligraphy. It requires a lot of patience, which I have developed over the years. I do yoga to keep my mind and body fit and I even walk as much as possible”, he says.

Talking about the history of Calligraphy as an art he says, “Calligraphy originated thousands of years ago. It was written in various languages, Farsi, Hindi, Arabic, English… However Urdu calligraphy originated only during Shah Jahan’s time. The Mughals wrote in Farsi before him. Calligraphy is an ancient art form which was popular among the rich. Even emperors learnt this art, and Aurangzeb was one of them.”

Mohammad Ghalib’s workplace is surrounded by Urdu literature. He even recommends a few Urdu books to customers. “I am very fond of reading. When I am not doing my work, I pick up a book and start reading it. I like reading taarikhein kitaabein (history books). I also like to read poetry, especially Mirza Ghalib’s shayaris, I think they’re beautiful”, he says.

Ghalib says he does calligraphy for various platforms such as magazines, newspapers, wedding cards, posters, etc. “When people realise there are a few things that cannot be written on the computer, they come to me and ask me to write for them. Turns out the computer is not advanced enough to really play with fonts, font sizes and colours the way I can”, he smirks.

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“In my youth, calligraphy was a well-known and respectable profession. Business was good back then. A lot of newspapers and magazines would come to us and ask us to write for them. But it reduced considerably after computers took over. I do get work, but it’s not as much as it used to be.

“Now speed is more important than the quality of work. Earlier elephants and horses were used to travel long distances, now we have trains and planes. There was a time when it would take months to get from one place to another, now it takes just a few hours. People are addicted to this fast lifestyle”, he says.

“But I am thankful to Allah for still sending me work, however big or small it is. As long as I am in a position to bring food to the table for my family without taking financial support from anyone else, I am happy. Work is not much but Allah is making sure I do not just sit at home unemployed. And I am satisfied with the work I do because I really enjoy it”

On asking him about his one big regret he says, “I did want to learn how to use a computer. I had even bought one. But due to lack of financial resources, I unable to learn it. I thought my children would learn it after me, but they weren’t interested. Eventually I had to sell the computer because the doctor told me it would make my eyes weaker,” he said.

In a time when calligraphy is dying, Mohammad Ghalib the only katib left in Urdu Bazar is doing his bit to keep this art alive. His passion for calligraphy shows in his work, and it saddens him that this beautiful art will soon become history.




Trek to One Tree Hill

Matheran: The beauty of Matheran cannot be described in words or captured in photographs. A pollution free hill station situated in Maharashtra, a few kilometers from Bombay.. The serene view will leave you mesmerized.

We went for a trek to Matheran in August and it was an adventure right from the beginning till the end. We were nine of us, and none of us had slept the previous night.

We left home at 4 in the morning to reach CST station to catch the 5:20 am train. We reached Karjat station after approximately 2 hours, all groggy and exhausted.

We met everyone else from Mumbai Travellers there, 36 of us in total including our 2 group leaders-Mayuri and Sameer. Before starting our trek, they took us to a small hotel nearby for breakfast. After eating the Misal Pav, Omlette Pav, and having some chai/coffee, we were ready to take on the day.

After breakfast, we headed to the base village and after a small round of introductions we finally started our trek at 10.30 am.

[Note: On Mumbai Traveller’s website the difficulty level of this trek said easy.. And I’ve been on quite a few treks before, and this was easily the most difficult trek I’ve ever been on.]
oth10The climb was steep from the very beginning. We were tired in the first thirty minutes. But the weather and view was so beautiful, our enthusiasm knew no bounds!

After climbing hills after hills, we reached the first waterfall at around 12 pm. We stopped there to wash our face. The water was really cold, and so pure.. we HAD TO drink it! We even filled our bottles with this water, after which we resumed our climb.

The next stop was a forest. The path was narrow and there were huge trees everywhere blocking the sunlight. It felt like it was 5 in the evening. And while we were walking this untrodden path, we heard the most beautiful voice singing to us. At first we thought, it was somebody whistling, but after concentrating on the tune for a bit we realized it was actually a bird singing. We looked everywhere for it, tried to follow the voice, but we couldn’t find it. I never really understood why they say that birds can sing. Honestly, I have always found them to be really noisy. But this bird was different.. it felt like it was talking to us. All I wanted was to stay there for a bit longer, in the midst of nature, listening to this completely unknown species talking to me.

But we had a long way to go..  and doing anything but walking towards our destination was a waste of time. After the forest came the last part and also the most difficult part of the trek.. another waterfall.

So this waterfall was really big, and time consuming. It was a mountain made up of big rocks that we had to climb, while the water was gushing through them making it’s way down. At first we were climbing, with not the slightest idea about how far away we were from ground level.

After sometime when I looked down, I saw a few rocks below me surrounded by fog. The water was flowing, and the same water that we had enjoyed at the previous waterfall, could be one of the main reasons we slipped and fell, and probably even died. Not probably.. definitely!

One slip, one wrong foot, you lose your balance.. you lose your life. It was a do or die situation. Literally. I was deeply overwhelmed. I really wanted to reach the top, be done with this.. but I knew this climb was an important part of the journey. It taught me a lot.  About how life is in general.. you need to overcome a few hurdles to get to the top. I was so thrilled by the beauty of it all, these rocks, not in perfect shape, were placed so beautifully one on top of the other, holding this mountain while the water passed through them. It somehow made me feel calm.. and happy. And somehow, I knew that the difficulties that I was facing while climbing would all be worth it in the end.. and it was.

We reached the top- The One Tree Hill Point in Matheran, and the view was amazing. We could see the hill parallel to where we were standing, and only one tree growing on it. The entire place was covered in fog. And somehow, it made it all the more beautiful.  Here we were.. at the top, in the middle of the clouds. After all the difficulties.. we made it!

We were at the point for about an hour. There was a small coffee shop + general store there, so we ate a little, had some coffee, were playing with the dogs there, petting the horses, after which we continued our trek.

So The One Tree Hill Point is at the end of Matheran. And we had to walk till the beginning – Dasturi Naka. It’s a straight road really. A long long long straight road.

We split up in the middle and everyone was walking at their own pace. My friend Vama and I were walking together when randomly a man came to us and started talking. He asked us where we were from, what were we studying what we wanted to do in life.. and we asked him the same. We shared quite a lot. Normally, I’d never do this. If a stranger came and spoke to me, I’d walk away. But he seemed nice and friendly, and we thought it was okay.


While we were walking, we even saw a snake. The poor thing was hiding in it’s bill while people were crowding around it shouting “saap saap, yeh dekho saap”. We decided to leave it alone and continued our walk.  And that is when we met the rest of our group. And as soon as they saw us, our sisters came running to us asking us for money. They were really hungry and wanted to eat Maggie. And while we were talking to them, our stranger friend continued his walk and he was gone!

After giving our sisters some food I realized, I didn’t even know the man’s name! I asked Vama if he had told her his name, she said no. And nor did we tell him our names. We shared so much, right from where we lived to where we studied to many other things, except the one most important thing.. our names! It felt funny for some reason. I thought maybe we’ll meet him on the way again..

We continued our walk. I even picked up a pair earrings and a set of bangles from the market. Matheran is a pollution free hill station, so the only modes of transport there are- horses, cycle rickshaws, toy trains (which is shut in the rains) and your legs. It felt nice to be away from the hassles of the city. We were having a great time walking on the train tracks, cracking jokes, laughing our hearts off, watching the beautiful scenery, clicking loads of pictures.. we never wanted it to end.


But it did. Our trek came to an end at 4 pm. We reached Dasturi Naka, that is where all the taxis/cars drop people off before they enter Matheran. We stopped there for some tea/coffee and snacks before heading for Neral Station.

Our trek may have ended, but a little bit of adventure was still remaining..

We reached Neral station by 5 pm and our train was supposed to arrive at 5:10 pm. We were waiting at the platform near the wrong compartment. But by the time we realized that it was too late. The train was delayed by 6 minutes. We decided to just get into the first class compartment. If we were caught by the TC we’d explain our situation to them and pay whatever fine we had to. None of us had the money, Suhit had 1500 on him and the rest of us had very little. But we’d take care of it.

So we got into the first class compartment. The WOMEN’S first class compartment. The ladies started complaining seeing the boys enter, and so the boys had to leave. They tried to get into the general compartment which was right next to the compartment we were in, but it was overcrowded and the train started to move.

They were left behind at the station, and someone told them that the next train to Bombay will come after an hour and a half. And just when they decided to take a cab someone else came and told them the next train will be arriving in 20 minutes. So they decided to wait.

We girls on the other hand, were laughing at the whole situation. Here we were, exhausted, with barely any money on us, in the wrong compartment, dying to get back home. If we were fined we didn’t even have enough money to give the TC. Vama and Shrida’s money was in their brother’s bag, who was still at Neral station. We couldn’t help but laugh at the whole thing.

It turns out luck wasn’t on our side.. the TC caught us at Ambernath Station. We had to get off at the next station which was Kalyan and pay the fine. When we got off, the people from the general compartments were getting out too, or rather they were pushed out. I thought running away now would be a good option, the TC would never be able to catch us. But I chose to cancel that thought the moment it occurred to me. We were at fault here, and we had a genuine reason too.

The boys called us up to tell us the train was taking too long and they were not sure when the next train would be coming, so they decided to take a cab to Bombay. Relieved that their problem was solved, they panicked after we told them the TC had caught us and we barely had any money to pay her. And they would take more than an hour to reach Kalyan to pay for us..

Meanwhile, Vama and I were talking to the TC explaining our situation to her. She was really nice to us and told us we’ll have to pay a minimum fine of 500 at least. I was left with only 300 on me, and Janvi had another 700. So we gave her 500, she gave us a receipt and left.

I called up dad and explained the whole situation to him. He told us to take a train till Thane, he’d send the driver there to pick us up. So we reached Thane, and went to the Mcdonalds near the station. While we were waiting for the driver to come, we ate with the 500 bucks that were remaining.

As soon as we got in the car, we zonked off. We dropped Vama, Shrida and Janvi at Vakola and then headed home to Juhu. By the time we reached home it was 9 pm. The boys reached home at around 9.30-10.

The trek was an adventure right till the end. And see, we have so many stories to tell! I had a few bruises on my hands and legs from the rock climbing, which I was completely unaware of until I got home and freshened up. But no doubt about it, this was a one of a kind experience and I cannot wait to do it again!

And lesson learnt- The next time we do this, we are buying a first class ticket!





Introductions are boring so I’m going to keep this one short. My name is Shloka Badkar. I’m 19 and a Mass Media student, pursuing Journalism. I’ve been meaning to start blogging since quite some time now.

I decided to name my blog- Coffee Stained Thoughts while I was walking back home from work (currently, I’m interning at a digital marketing company, SoCheers). I drink 3-4 cups of coffee a day. And there is so much going on in my caffeinated mind that it all comes out in my writing.

So welcome to my little coffee stained world. I write random things. Sometimes, I write stories and poems as well. I’m pretty excited about this! I really hope you enjoy reading my blog. Feel free to like, comment, share my posts. Thank you! 😀