language trends

A Delhi artist is trying to popularise Urdu by putting Faiz and Chughtai on T-shirts

Shiraz Husain believes love for the language is best communicated through visuals.

Art teacher by day and painter by night, 30-year-old Shiraz Husain wants you to know about Urdu literary figures. Not just know about them, but know them – as in, by face.

“To appreciate the language, one needs to first recognise the writer,” he said. “So instead of using abstract forms of their writings, I decided to simply sketch their faces, in their own andaaz".

And thus was born Husain’s Facebook page, the Khwaab Tanha Collective.

Husain wants young people to read more Urdu literature, but he also wants to transform the imagery of Urdu on the internet. The few times that he tried to Google images for Urdu poetry, the results were unattractive fonts, portraits of heart-broken girls with roses and tears morphed on to the images. Husain decided to do something about it. The words Khwaab Tanha translate to "a loner’s dream", an apt description of his vision, he says.

Husain’s paintings are like the Urdu version of visuals from Maria Popova’s immensely popular website Brain Pickings, or Berlin Artparasites. Husain has made about 100 sketches and paintings and he draws each one by hand to achieve what he calls an "organic process".

“The feel you get from writing in Urdu or drawing a Firaq’s hand holding a cigarette or Amrita Pritam’s deep eyes… it is a personal connection with the artwork which a computer cannot replace,” he said.

Despite Husain’s deep love for creating art by hand, he is, like the rest of the world, excited by Graphics Interchange Formats or GIFs. One of his GIFs depicts an Ismat Chugtai story, Nanhi Ki Naani. While the GIF itself means little to someone unfamiliar with Chughtai’s work, its aesthetic appeal, Husain hopes, will draw readers to explore Chughtai’s literary themes of women and sexuality.

Husain’s father, an Urdu teacher, fed him stories with his food; his sister played ghazals by Mehdi Hasan and Ghulam Ali all day long. But it was studying at Jamia Millia Islamia in Delhi that deepened Husain’s love for Urdu literature. He recalls playing baith baazi, a game where two teams try to outdo each other with Urdu couplets. The couplets Husain memorised in the spirit of competition, later grew into a significant part of his life.

Khwaab Tanha Collective’s Facebook presence is small, but growing rapidly, particularly among Delhi’s lovers of Urdu shayari, and among visitors to Jashn-e-Rekhta, the capital’s Urdu festival, where Husain exhibited some of his works.

Husain has begun to receive requests to create similar artworks, with writers who write in other languages – such as MV Basheer, a Malayam fiction writer, but for now, he plans to focus on Urdu and Hindi alone. At present, he is trying to make souvenirs more memorable by adding Urdu couplets to them: for instance, a calculator framed with lines from Faiz Ahmad Faiz:

Kar raha tha Gham-e-jahan ka hisaab, Aaj tum yaad bay hisaab aayay.

I am calculating the atrocities of the world, today I missed you countless times.

Husain hopes his wares will elicit a curiosity to learn Urdu among those who cannot understand it at all, although this is rare in India, given Bollywood’s penchant for including Urdu lyrics in love songs.

“Listen to Gulzar’s lyrics closely and you will realise that Bollywood is incomplete without Urdu,” he said. “Now that I have said this, nobody will be able to point out what is purely Hindi or Urdu. This is precisely the beauty of how both the languages have evolved together.”

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Modern home design trends that are radically changing living spaces in India

From structure to finishes, modern homes embody lifestyle.

Homes in India are evolving to become works of art as home owners look to express their taste and lifestyle through design. It’s no surprise that global home design platform Houzz saw over a million visitors every month from India, even before their services were locally available. Architects and homeowners are spending enormous time and effort over structural elements as well as interior features, to create beautiful and comfortable living spaces.

Here’s a look at the top trends that are altering and enhancing home spaces in India.

Cantilevers. A cantilever is a rigid structural element like a beam or slab that protrudes horizontally out of the main structure of a building. The cantilevered structure almost seems to float on air. While small balconies of such type have existed for eons, construction technology has now enabled large cantilevers, that can even become large rooms. A cantilever allows for glass facades on multiple sides, bringing in more sunlight and garden views. It works wonderfully to enhance spectacular views especially in hill or seaside homes. The space below the cantilever can be transformed to a semi-covered garden, porch or a sit-out deck. Cantilevers also help conserve ground space, for lawns or backyards, while enabling more built-up area. Cantilevers need to be designed and constructed carefully else the structure could be unstable and lead to floor vibrations.

Butterfly roofs. Roofs don’t need to be flat - in fact roof design can completely alter the size and feel of the space inside. A butterfly roof is a dramatic roof arrangement shaped, as the name suggests, like a butterfly. It is an inverted version of the typical sloping roof - two roof surfaces slope downwards from opposing edges to join around the middle in the shape of a mild V. This creates more height inside the house and allows for high windows which let in more light. On the inside, the sloping ceiling can be covered in wood, aluminium or metal to make it look stylish. The butterfly roof is less common and is sure to add uniqueness to your home. Leading Indian architecture firms, Sameep Padora’s sP+a and Khosla Associates, have used this style to craft some stunning homes and commercial projects. The Butterfly roof was first used by Le Corbusier, the Swiss-French architect who later designed the city of Chandigarh, in his design of the Maison Errazuriz, a vacation house in Chile in 1930.

Butterfly roof and cantilever (Image credit: Design Milk on Flickr.com)
Butterfly roof and cantilever (Image credit: Design Milk on Flickr.com)

Skylights. Designing a home to allow natural light in is always preferred. However, spaces, surrounding environment and privacy issues don’t always allow for large enough windows. Skylights are essentially windows in the roof, though they can take a variety of forms. A well-positioned skylight can fill a room with natural light and make a huge difference to small rooms as well as large living areas. However, skylights must be intelligently designed to suit the climate and the room. Skylights facing north, if on a sloping roof, will bring in soft light, while a skylight on a flat roof will bring in sharp glare in the afternoons. In the Indian climate, a skylight will definitely reduce the need for artificial lighting but could also increase the need for air-conditioning during the warm months. Apart from this cleaning a skylight requires some effort. Nevertheless, a skylight is a very stylish addition to a home, and one that has huge practical value.

Staircases. Staircases are no longer just functional. In modern houses, staircases are being designed as aesthetic elements in themselves, sometimes even taking the centre-stage. While the form and material depend significantly on practical considerations, there are several trendy options. Floating staircases are hugely popular in modern, minimalist homes and add lightness to a normally heavy structure. Materials like glass, wood, metal and even coloured acrylic are being used in staircases. Additionally, spaces under staircases are being creatively used for storage or home accents.

Floating staircase (Image credit: Design Milk on Flickr.com)
Floating staircase (Image credit: Design Milk on Flickr.com)

Exposed Brick Walls. Brickwork is traditionally covered with plaster and painted. However, ‘exposed’ bricks, that is un-plastered masonry, is becoming popular in homes, restaurants and cafes. It adds a rustic and earthy feel. Exposed brick surfaces can be used in home interiors, on select walls or throughout, as well as exteriors. Exposed bricks need to be treated to be moisture proof. They are also prone to gathering dust and mould, making regular cleaning a must.

Cement work. Don’t underestimate cement and concrete when it comes to design potential. Exposed concrete interiors, like exposed brick, are becoming very popular. The design philosophy is ‘Less is more’ - the structure is simplistic and pops of colour are added through furniture and soft furnishings.

Exposed concrete wall (Image Credit: Getty Images)
Exposed concrete wall (Image Credit: Getty Images)

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