Greetings from Kolkata

I don’t want to play favorites with Indian scripts, but I have to admit that ever since I became interested in type, I particularly love Bengali letterforms. The Bengali (‘Bangla’) script is the writing system for the Bengali language, the seventh most-used language in the world and is primarily used in the Indian states of West Bengal, Tripura, and South Assam.

A few years ago, I had an opportunity to visit Kolkata, the capital city of West Bengal, known as ‘Calcutta’ during British colonization. Kolkata is feted for its art and cultural heritage, symbolic of both the bygone British era as well as the Bengali Renaissance. I associate a sense of romanticism with Kolkata, with its trams, the Howrah bridge, and Rabindranath Tagore’s poetry. However, Kolkata in person is simultaneously romantic and chaotic. This duality can be experienced not only in the visual landscape of city life but also through its letterforms. While many examples of elegant Bengali typography exist, the streets are also flooded with bold vernacular lettering on busses.

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Design of a Handwritten Devanagari Typeface

Mr. Sharad Deshpande has been a prolific copywriter for 50 years and an intrinsic part of Setu Advertising, Pune. Mr. Deshpande maintained many diaries documenting his writings and what made them extra special was his beautiful, neat handwriting. It was when he suffered a mild paralysis attack, that he lost the ability to write, a couple years back. It was disheartening for a copywriter who was so proud of his writing, to not be able to continue doing what he loved so much. But his sons decided to gift their father something very unique on his 76th birthday – his handwriting. His son, Rugwed saw great potential in converting his fathers handwriting into a font and approached me with this project proposal. This gesture was extremely overwhelming and it’s been a humbling experience to be a part of this project.

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Scan of the handwriting from Mr. Deshpande’s diary.

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