Book Review: Spoken words bridge Indian and Pakistani cultures

Samrup Rachna: Calligraphic Expression of Apni Boli {Hindi-Urdu}
by Dr. Syed Mohammed Anwer
Published by Wahdat Foundation, 4 Waqar Plaza, St. 67, F-10/3, Islamabad-45000, Pakistan

Pages numbered 1-135 pages (actually 150). Hardbound Price: PKR 3500; US$35

Samrup Rachna is a research work in the form of a collection of calligraphic expression of art that spells peace and tolerance, especially in a geo-political region which is divided into two countries since its partition in 1947.

SamrupRachnaAuthor of this research work is a corporate lawyer and an active member of civil society. He is interested in socio-linguistics, calligraphy and painting. Look at the painting on the facing page. ‘Om’ is a sacred sound. It is written in Sanskrit asॐ.

It is a mantra in Hinduism. This spiritual has a spiritual meaning in most of the Indian religions, but the meanings and connotations of ‘Om’ vary between the diverse schools within and across the various traditions. In Hinduism, it is one of the most important spiritual symbols. It refers to soul, self within and ultimately reality, entirety of the universe, truth, divine, supreme spirit, cosmic principles, knowledge, etc. This is used in the beginning of Hindu texts. It is a sacred spiritual incantation made before and during worship and personal prayers. It is written in nast’aliq as, in the picture on facing page, it is written five times in Sanskrit and once in nast’aliq script of Apni Boli.
Interestingly, he has coined certain terms to explain his concept of calligraphic graphic. For instance, “Mail Rachna” to refer to those calligraphic expressions in which a linking design is represented. Mail in Urdu or Hindi relates to linking or connecting, while Rachna means design.So “Mail Rachna” would mean “linking design”. Similarly, “Samrup Rachna” refers to a congruent design (Samrup: congruent; Rachna: design).

What sets this wonderful work apart from other lexicographic works is representation of various expressions in graphics. For instance, the calligraphic designs such as Zaat Paat (Hindu caste system), Parosi (next-door neighbor); Shanti (peace) are written in Mail Rachna; while Thela (trolley), Tota (parrot), Surahi (ewer) and Murtee (figurine) are given in Samrup Rachna. All Hindi alphabets are interestingly explained in the book.

For an easy understanding of Apni Boli, its phonology is also explained.

As for Urdu letter Alif (ا), it is the first letter of nasta’liq script of Apni Boli, and has corresponding sound with its Hindi counterpart. Urdu alphabets are similarly explained in this work in a very interesting manner.

As one can observe, Hindi and Urdu represent one language when spoken but when written, they have different styles. Hence, in the work under review, half of the calligraphies are done in such a way that a picture of the meaning of the word which is written is formed. This has never been done in the history of calligraphic art before. For instance, the word Surahi is written simultaneously in Hindi and Urdu that a perfect picture of the water vessel called Surahi is formed. So is the noun Murtee as well as the verb Orhna which means the “covering”, or to “put on”. – M. Khalid Rahman

Mother Languages Literature Festival

Hindi-Urdu fusion in unique calligraphic art

A unique linguistic cum calligraphic art book, Samrup Rachna – Calligraphic Expression of Apni Boli [Hindi-Urdu]was launched at the Mother Languages Literature Festival, held at the Lok Virsa, Islamabad, on 20 February 2016.

An expression of immense love with Hindi and Urdu, called Ápni Boli by its author Dr. Syed Mohammed Anwer, the book contains over 60 visual impressions of words with cultural connotations created out of the Hindi Devanagari script and the Urdu Nastaliq script.

Beautifully presented in hardback form the book is as much a socio-political comment as a coffee table art book. Dr. Anwer learnt the Devanagari script from his mother. The two scripts are essentially “the same language, written differently” as explained by the artist’s mother.

The purpose of the book is to focus on the fact that irrespective of how the language is written, it is still apni boli, with the caveat that our inability to understand the other half of our own language renders us all half illiterate. Another purpose of the Book is to highlight the fact that association of any language or its script with any particular religion is a fundamental mistake. Language has no religion. The book can also be used as ‘easy-to-learn’ book for the ‘other’ script of Apni Boli [Hindi-Urdu] by its speakers.

With an almost identical spoken language, Samrup Rachna is a critical step to encourage people on both sides of the border to acknowledge the similarities and to take steps to understand both scripts. The linguistic scriptural divide reflects the schisms between the people. It is fascinating that a language that when spoken is comprehensible to Indians and Pakistanis becomes completely illegible to one group when written in either script.

Dr. Anwer says, “My interest in calligraphy of the scripts of my own language (‘Apni Boli’), initiated in childhood, led to the study of my own culture and society (‘Apna Samaj’), which culminated in an art form after so many decades. It was not a planned work or project, it just happened.

Dr. Anwer is an advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and is a PhD in human rights from Punjab University. The polymath is also an active member of the civil society and has remained elected President of Islamabad Bar Association. He has also written books on human rights, women’s emancipation and other social issues.

For further info and queries, please email:

Dr Syed Mohammed Anwer (syedmanwer@yahoo.com)