Ghulam Mohi-ud-Din Mir, a retired government employee who is in his seventies, is not someone who will sit back and spend his post-retirement days inside the four walls of his house. Hailing from the beautiful town of Aishmuqam, famous for the shrine of Sufi saint, Sultan Zain Ud DinWali (AR), Mir is an expert in the art of Urdu, Arabic, Persian and English calligraphy, a skill he wants to impart to a new generation, that too free of cost.
Besides teaching calligraphy free in the schools in his vicinity occasionally, Mir has taken a shop for rent in the Uranhall area of Anantnag town, some 30 kilometres away from his home, where he teaches the art of calligraphy to every age group for free. The center is flocked by dozens of school going kids who converge and can be seen surrounding Mir to learn calligraphy skills.
“I have worked for decades in the department of education as lecturer in BEd college Srinagar and District Institute of Education and Training where I would teach Arabic, Persian and Kashmiri.
“During my tenure, I received training from ITI in Art, Painting and calligraphy as I was sent for training through my department. I learnt portrait making, creation of models and statues made with plaster of paris besides oil painting and other art forms. I was inclined towards this art of calligraphy since my childhood as my father was an expert calligrapher, something he was doing purely out of love for this art as a hobby,” says Mir.
The materials used, be it pens, or paper, Mir spends all the money out of his pocket. Besides his permanent teaching centre in Anantnag, Mir goes as far as Srinagar, Budgam and Baramulla to teach calligraphy in schools, colleges and localities.
“I usually go to Srinagar on holidays and assemble calligraphy lovers in places like Hazratbal Dargah, public parks or lawns of locals in Nowhatta, Safa Kadal etc. My intention is to keep our younger lot engaged with something productive and that is the reason I provide them materials free of cost and neither do I charge for teaching them this skill.”
“In Uranhall where I teach inside a rented shop, I pay the rent out of my own earnings and every day dozens of new faces get added up for learning the art of Calligraphy.”
He said his sole motive and aim is to keep this art flourishing. “I am doing everything in my capacity to keep it alive as the computer-generated graphics have almost killed this art. However, there still are some people who value handmade art, it surely has a different feel to it. With the advent of electronic gadgets, writing on paper has become a thing of the past and as a result, we have students who have very poor writing skills or handwriting,” he said.
He said besides teaching sketch making his desire is to impart training and improve handwriting of the students. “Apart from teaching students the basics of calligraphy and Quranic verse writing, I teach my students to make posters by writing quotations of famous writers, poets and religious scholars which helps them in remembering such quotes and can make them good persons,” adds Mir.
Mir, being financially well off, has made it a point to travel every day, despite his old age.
“Mir sahab is an expert calligrapher of the district and despite being frail he usually travels hundreds of kilometres every day to impart this skill. He could have preferred staying home after his retirement but instead, he is adding more and more artists in the art form of calligraphy.
“It is very rare to find teachers like Mir sahab as he is the one who isn’t after the money. Some parents do offer him money as fees but he never accepts, such is the sacredness of this art form to him,” says a local artist, Zuhaib Wahid.