A DAY IN THE LIFE OF IRSHAD FAROOQUI
Deep in the busy streets of Zakir Nagar, lives a humble artist. An artist, who has blown the whole country with craftsmanship that left everyone awestruck. He is Irshad Farooqui, arguably the best calligrapher in India who works on wood. A self taught and self dependant specialist, Irshad has been practicing the rare art for almost two decades now.
Inside his workshop, Mr. Irshad showed us the latest wood calligraphy he is working on.
His early life included schooling and under-graduation from his hometown, Sikar district in Rajasthan, after which he moved to Jaipur to pursue a master’s degree in Urdu from the University of Rajasthan. Simultaneously, he completed a one year certificate course in Persian. In the successive year, he enrolled himself in a P.G Diploma course in journalism and also applied for a research scholarship program. Not just that, he got admission in the Rajasthan State Flying School as a student pilot, where he cleared almost all the technical papers in spite of being from an arts background. His Ph.D suffered due to his passion and yearning to be a Pilot, although he didn’t complete the whole training and left it midway.
Irshad Farooqui posed with the National Award for his contribution in calligraphy
We asked the man, what kept him going and have faith after doing so many things but succeeding in none! He said, “I believe that it’s the will of God, which is more important than the human will. All these attempts I made in life because God wanted to test my grit and will power and showed me the right way, eventually. Allah knew what to make of Irshad Farooqi; a pilot or an artist. You see a mother loves her baby more than anything else, but it’s said about Allah that He loves us more than the love of 70 mothers together.”
Standing next to his recent completed work, Mr. Irshad explained it’s significance
Talking about how he came to Delhi, he said, “I got married in Delhi as my father had started living here. Also, we bought some property here and I personally liked it here because in Rajasthan, I had this inferiority complex of not being able to achieve anything. Back in the day when I compromised on my Ph.D for the pilot training, a lot of financial crises took upon the family and due to that; my commercial pilot training went down the drains. Even in those days, there was none from the family who ever dreamt of being a pilot. But I believed in destiny and so even in those troublesome days I never lost hope in Allah and in that hope moved to Delhi. Yes, becoming a pilot was the utmost dream and if I had gotten a chance, I would have been very successful as a Pilot, but look at me now; I am no less successful as an artist. So, I am happy.”
One of the most deeply appreciated works by the man; he described the four oaths of Allah through this
He started working on wood twenty years ago. Although it wasn’t calligraphy; he was slowly but steadily learning the art. His love for Calligraphy was born eighteen years ago when he and his wife randomly came across a Calligraphy exhibition in Delhi. He said, “I saw artists had made beautiful calligraphic designs written on paper from the Quran Sharif. That’s when I realised why not bring this art in a different style and take it to every household in the country. In those days calligraphies were very expensive for everyone to possess. So, I decided to change the medium and started with making small calligraphies on wood which included different names of Allah and so on. Gradually, I made full-fledged chapters from the Quran.”
Carefully weaving every grain in the wood, he works very earnestly towards all his designs
They say nothing comes easy, especially success. Putting some light on his struggles, he said, “Honestly, I had no knowledge of the art twenty years ago. I had to literally start from scratch. I started working on wood before I learnt writing calligraphies from famous calligraphy writers in Iran, Turkey, etc. I didn’t know much about types of wood or their names back then and what type would suit my art; didn’t know where to buy it from. I had no knowledge about tools; how to make an axe or its teeth, what file to choose or the blades. In the beginning, my axe broke every half hour. The machine was difficult to handle, I had no idea about its alignment or working. With experience I learnt all about wood and the types that suited me best; made my own axes. All this, I have done myself with continuous perseverance and patience.”
Here he is examining the tiny details on the latest unfinished work
“Calligraphy is not a necessity for people you see. It’s for people who want to keep antiques in their homes as an art piece. I found it very hard to sell it in my initial days since it’s a rare art and people won’t buy it everyday. I used to drive twenty kms per day in those days carrying a bag full of my designs. Sometimes, they bought it, sometimes I returned empty handed. But be it scorching heat or unstoppable rains or shady winter days, I mustered courage and went out to sell my art. The first ten years went in hardships. Now, it’s easier for me since a lot people know me and have started respecting the art.”
Turns out, all the hard work paid off when Irshad was given the National Award (in 2010 for 2007) for his contribution to Calligraphy on Wood. Since then, he has represented India in the Incredible India handicrafts shows in Muscat (Oman), Dhaka (Bangladesh) and Bangkok (Thailand) among the numerous exhibitions and events that he participates in.
He spreads the message of love and humanity through his works. He doesn’t believe in one religion as the ‘be all end all’ and strives to make calligraphic work on all of them. In a world full of war, resentment and abhorrence, Irshad Farooqui will continue to make art-pieces that will inspire the mankind.