Mehreen Hasan / Qatar

Various scripts, the formation of letters and lettering styles of Urdu and Arabic script always fascinated me. I remember, as I child, I had private lessons from a professional calligraphist who taught us how to write Nastaliq Urdu using a qalm on takhti (a traditional writing style ) Later, designed my own script for journal writing which was uncomprehended by my family and friends. My interest in languages developed when I was employed as a Linguist/Translator where I got an opportunity to work with linguists belonging to 70 different nationalities. Such an amazing experience opened a new door for me where I could view various scriptures, texts and got a chance to hear phonics and dialects of other languages around me.

All this made me think of the origin of my own language Urdu which is spoken in Pakistan. My research and study took me to another world of Mughal kings, Turks, Afghans, Arabs, Greeks and finally back to my roots.

When the Mughals came to Subcontinent, their court language was Persian. In order to communicate with the local people and to control them, a new language came into being. Urdu was evolved due to the amalgamation of Hindi, Persian and Arabic. Urdu is the newest of them all. Sanskrit is the oldest which later was changed or evolved to Hindi. When the Mughals came, initially they spoke Turkish. The word URDU means military camp” in the Turkish language which was the colloquial language of the Turk soldiers. Persian became the court language of Mughal Kings. Urdu adapted Persian/ Arabic script and the phonics were borrowed from the Hindi which was known as “Hindustani” at that time. Babur was the first Mughal king who was a grandson of a Turkish military man. At the time of Bahadur Shah Zafar’s regime, Urdu and Persian were both widely spoken. Mirza Ghalib was a court poet hired by Bahadur Shah, his poetry is both in Persian and Urdu. Dari and Pashto are older than Urdu.

I invite you to join me in my journey from the famous Silk Road to winding hills of Himalayas, from Samarkand and Bukhara to the corridors of Aligarh University and well-crafted balconies of the walled city of Lahore. I tried to display the form of free-flowing calligraphies, elements created by the fusion of Hindi and Urdu script and sensuous colours of the magical mysticism that prevailed in the exotic golden era of the Mughal kings…