New Delhi: To a novice, Kerala-born Perinchira Paramu Syamalan’s handwriting style may seem like printed words, but to the calligrapher, the flair comes naturally. Having won several national laurels, the Delhi Police sub-inspector, Syamalan recently created a world record in calligraphy.
The 55-year-old cop holds four Limca Book of Records for the years 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017 in calligraphy writing and also entered the India Star Book of World Records in October last. Syamalan would have liked to compete for Guinness Book of World Records, but “they do not have a category related to calligraphy”, he says.
Posted at Raj Niwas (office-cum-residence of Lieutenant Governor), Syamalan works as wireless operations officer at the Control Room that often demands difficult decisions to be made quickly and accurately. A man of pleasant demeanour, he neither wavers when it is the call of duty, nor when he is pursuing his passion for calligraphy that demands a stable hand.
Though not a trained calligrapher, he has made a mark in the long-forgotten visual art form. Syamalan informs, “I have been calligraphing since childhood. While my father Paramu Syamalan, a worker at Tata Oil Mills (now called Hindustan Levers), emphasised on education, my mother Leela, who studied up to Grade 8, can be called my guru, who introduced me to the world of calligraphy. When I was about seven, she took me under her wings and taught me formation of alphabets. I would practise various styles in Malayalam, which, with its rounded form, looks like a calligraphy text.
“Back then, it was referred to as ‘cursive writing’ and hardly given any kind of importance. At that time we never imagined I would some day enter the record books.”
Born in Chalikkavattom village in Ernakulam district, after his early schooling at Samantha Pratibha Yogam Primary School in Ponnurunni, Syamalan studied at St Rita’s High School, followed by a year at The Cochin College. He first received a consolation prize in handwriting competition in 1981 in Kerala and though considered a career in painting and calligraphy in the southern film industry, destiny willed otherwise.
In 1982, Syamalan joined the Delhi Police as constable and was promoted to the rank of head constable in 1989. “For seven years I did no writing. But on being transferred to the Communications Unit in 1989, I returned to calligraphy. My focus then was English and I learnt different kinds of fonts from newspapers, books and websites. Currently, I can write in 12 fonts including: cursive, monotype, monotype cursive, Old English and italics at a good speed and have even developed my own unique font,” he conveys.
Displaying a handwriting sample that looked like a computer print, he said that experimentation with various ways of word formations began only later in life. Attributing it to the daily practice, he says, “I dedicate three to four hours to it each day at home. In my free time, I can be seen writing.”
In office, Syamalan is much in demand for his hobby. His works are sought after by all — from Commissioner of Police to constables and he is often handed over the job of writing invitation cards issued by the police, banners for functions and even leave application letters — all of which look highly impressive with skilfully curved loops in the alphabets.
He expresses, “These days people prefer greeting each other on social media, but there’s nothing quite like a handwritten post to brighten up your birthday.” Therefore, for the last couple of years, the cop has made it a point to prepare a special greeting card for the staff at the Raj Niwas premises on their birthday.
Syamalan’s face lights up as he feels the joy of putting pen to paper to create variety of styles in a breeze. He updates, “I grew up seeing writing as having the potential to be decorative and at the same time informative. Calligraphy is a lifelong learning experience. And to practice this art, it is essential to have patience and the inclination to experiment and seek inspiration from various lettering styles. I moved from the more formal scripts I had originally learnt and found my own letterforms emerging from those.”
So, what does his toolkit comprise? Syamalan laughs, “Only pens with different kinds of nib. While I get some from the market, the rest I innovate on my own by blunting the edges.”
Asked if he has ever written creative love notes to his wife, the cop says, “My wife Mini is a Science teacher at Oscar Public School in Burari, north Delhi. She often comes home with requests to prepare charts for her school and I take up all the tasks with utmost pleasure.”
For those who feel Delhi Police personnel are heartless, to Syamalan goes the credit of trying to help the underprivileged children and families of terminally ill patients with proceeds from the sale of his art. That apart, he has a dream project. “On retirement, in June 2022, I desire to go back to my village and provide education to children for free,” he states.
• He entered the Limca Book of Records in 2011 for calligraphing 80 greeting cards with the words ‘Wish You All The Best’ in one hour.
• Limca Book of Records in 2013 for maximum number of greeting cards (261) with the words ‘Best of Luck’ in one hour.
• Limca Book of Records in 2015 for calligraphing names of 193 students of Delhi Police Public School in one hour.
• Limca Book of Records in 2017 for writing names of 231 cancer patients of Delhi State Cancer Institute, in monotype cursive calligraphy in one hour.
• India Star Book of World Records in 2017 for writing 1001 names in three hours and 32 minutes.