Suraiya Hasan Bose dies at the age of 93

She was instrumental in reviving many handloom heritage fabrics

Suraiya Hasan Bose known as Suraiya Apa, who was instrumental in reviving the handloom heritage fabrics like himroo brocade, mashru, and telia rumal passed away on Friday morning. She was 93.

Born and brought up in Hyderabad, she travelled the world learning about crafts and fabrics. Educated in Cambridge, she returned to India to work at the Cottage Industries Emporium established by her father Badrul Hasan, who was a freedom fighter. In the mid-50s she moved to Delhi and worked with Pupul Jayakar and Kamaldevi Chattopadhyay at the Handloom and Handicrafts Export Council.

Her husband Aurobindo Bose, a nephew of Subhash Chandra Bose, predeceased her.

Suraiya Hasan Bose returned to Hyderabad in 1972 when her uncle Abid Hussain Safrani bought land near Husain Shah Wali Dargah and established the Safrani Memorial High School. Just beside the school, Suraiya set up her workshop-cum-showroom that also functioned as a training ground for generations of artisans. It was at her workshop that she roped in the services of a master naqshband weaver from Varanasi Abdul Qadir to revive himroo. And by 1986, the brocade that charmed nobility and royalty was back in the fashion circles. In 1982 she established Deccan Exports which tapped the big demand in foreign markets for Indian handlooms.

She was responsible for bringing in ikat and kalamkari dyeing techniques to durries and Gadwal and uppada saris making them attractive to foreign buyers as well as the more fashion conscious circles in India. Another weaving tradition she saved from extinction was Telia Rumal which now has a Geographical Indication tag. It was at her workshop that the unassuming woman draped in handloom sari met legions of connoisseurs, journalists, artisans and buyers.

“You must visit the Coromandel Coast where these textiles are being made for centuries. You have to meet the artisans, spend time with them, and understand their lives to write about their ancestors. Without understanding the places [the sites and workshop spaces] of production, one cannot gain knowledge about objects,” she told one of her interviewers in 2015.

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