Ahmed Mirza Jamil changed the way all Urdu newspapers and books would be published anywhere in the world; and he did it back in 1981 with his Noori Nastaliq script that gave the Midas touch to desktop publishing.
The present-day Urdu publishing owes its elegant contours to the calligraphic skills of this great wizard of calligraphy.
Before being used in the composing software, InPage, the Noori Nastaliq was created as a digital typeface (font) in 1981 when master-calligrapher Ahmed Mirza Jamil and Monotype Imaging (then called Monotype Corp) collaborated on a joint venture.
Earlier, Urdu newspapers, books and magazines needed manual calligraphers, who were replaced by computer machines in Pakistan, India, UK and other countries.
The government of Pakistan recognised Ahmad Mirza Jamil’s singular achievement in 1982 by designating Noori Nastaliq as an ‘Invention of National Importance’ and awarded him with the medal of distinction, Tamgha-e-Imtiaz.
In recognition of his achievement, the University of Karachi also awarded him the degree of Doctor of Letters, Honoris Causa.
Narrating the history of his achievement in his book, ‘Revolution in Urdu Composing’, he wrote: “In future, Urdu authors will be able to compose their books like the authors of the languages of Roman script. Now, the day a manuscript is ready is the day the publication is ready for printing. There is no waiting for calligraphers to give their time grudgingly, no apprehension of mistakes creeping in, nor any complaints about the calligraphers or operators not being familiar with the language.
“Soon our future generations will be asking incredulously whether it was really true that there was a time when newspapers were painstakingly manually calligraphed all through the night to be printed on high speed machines in the morning. Were we really so primitive that our national language had to limp along holding on to the crutches of the calligraphers that made the completion of books an exercise ranging from months to years depending upon their volume.”
Noted Urdu litterateur Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi paid tribute to Ahmed Mirza Jamil during his lifetime.
He said, “The revolution brought about by Noori Nastaliq in the field of Urdu publishing sends out many positive signals. It has at last settled the long-standing dispute about Urdu typewriter’s keys that had raged from the time Pakistan was born. The future generations will surely be indebted to him for this revolution.
Dr Ahmed Mirza Jamil passed away unsung on February 17, 2014. May his soul be blessed.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 15th, 2014.