Ahead of Valentine’s Day, calligraphers in the narrow lanes of the Urdu Bazaar area of Old Delhi are a busy lot, writing love letters for those cupid-struck city youngsters who want old-style handwritten letters crafted for their Valentine.

Sohail, a third generation calligrapher who sits next to the Jama Masjid, said: “I may be a bit biased, but I think that the expression of love through words on paper in calligraphy is perfect for Valentine’s Day, especially when looking for a meaningful gift rather than a material one.”

With the advent of computer technology, the once vibrant community of calligraphers in the Urdu Bazaar area has been shrinking fast. Most members of this community have taken to computerised calligraphy and advertisement work, but Valentine’s Day has given several of them the opportunity to make some extra money.

Among those frequenting these calligraphers is Sangeeta, a 27-year-old IT professional. “My boyfriend and I do not live in the same state; so I started writing letters to him and he wrote back. A few years ago, one of my friends informed me about handwritten letters in calligraphy. Since then, I am coming every year to get love letters written for my boyfriend,” Sangeeta told this newspaper.

Merlyn, a 29-year-old teacher said, “I and my boyfriend still have a stack of letters from the past years because of the sentimental value they hold. And a plain letter on a sheet of paper can serve as a wonderful surprise. But for Valentine’s Day, you should probably take the romance a notch up and that is not possible without something like a handwritten letter by a calligrapher.”

Tashu, another visitor at a calligraphy shop, said, “I think it’s a beautiful way to tell someone you love them. Frame it and always remember they thought enough to have an artist render their words to create a beautiful treasure.”

Sensing a fondness among the youth for handwritten calligraphic letters, many companies have initiated efforts to cater to the demand. The Indian Handwritten Letters Company (TIHLC), a company formed in 2016 by Ankit Anubhav, a tech-savvy Bengaluru-based calligrapher, is a fast growing start-up. 

“I take pleasure to craft customised calligraphic love letters for my clients. As a calligrapher, one of my favourite things is to write other people’s letters for their partners,” Anubhav said, adding that earlier they were writing 10 letters a day, which has increased to 20 a day. The one-year-old company has crafted over 5,000 handwritten letters, most of which are love letters for Valentine’s Day.

“I love the way I am able to help enhance beautiful, romantic words by depicting the writer’s moods and feelings through calligraphy. Apart from my other staff, every day, I handwrite about 10 love letters for those who have assigned us to write letters on their behalf for a fee of Rs 1 per word,” Anubhav told The Sunday Guardian.

“In an age of texting, sexting and quick calls, it takes time, energy and planning to put in place a calligraphy love letter. The art of writing enhances your letter to the level of a Valentine’s Day gift. Custom calligraphy and beautiful paper complement your heartfelt words by turning them into works of art. Each sentiment becomes more emotional as delicate calligraphy brings them to life,” Anubhav added.

Not just TIHLC, a few other start-ups launched in the past few years such as Letteramail and Callyally also write letters for their patrons. Personal letters are their most sought-after service. These ventures craft letters in languages such as English, Hindi, Urdu, Marathi, Telugu, and they say there have a good number of clients. Modern calligraphy ranges from functional inscriptions and designs to fine-art pieces.

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