Stashed away in Tilaknagar’s bylanes are reams of fabric that are reminiscent of an era gone by. Of a time when intricate hand-embroidered fabric was not only sought after but also considered an art, one that is carefully passed on from generation to generation.

For scores of families here, embroidery is a “family tradition”; though it’s another matter altogether that the dwindling demand for embroidered fabric has forced many of them to give up this art and switch to more profitable ventures such as the far less authentic machine embroidery or even tailoring.

Ask Abdul Gaffoor, one of the oldest employees at Rose Embroidery here, and he’ll tell you that in the past half decade they’ve lost over three-fourths of their business. Those like him, who continued to invest in embroidery even while others chose to move out of the business, suffered huge losses. “Even customers who wanted to wear intricate designs wanted it done at a far lower rate. Given the state of the market, we had no choice but to lower our prices to keep the shop running,” he says.

Tailoring a better deal

Others who could not absorb the losses were forced to quit embroidery and take up related trades such as tailoring. Take the Siddu Boutique here for instance. Mahfooz Rahman says that they gave up around four years ago, when the number of customers for authentic hand-stitched embroidery trickled down to two or three a week. This being wholly unprofitable, they converted the shop into a tailoring shop. Now, Rahman says, they get three to four customers a day. Shop after shop in these bylanes tell the same story: some attribute it to computer-generated designs replacing the need for the artist; others feel embroidered work simply went out of fashion. When asked if they think their art will ever make a comeback in terms of demand, they’re mostly less than optimistic. “Who will pursue this loss-making profession?” says Gafoor. He says his two sons have not been taught the art of embroidering intricate designs on fabric. “I don’t plan to teach them either. There’s no profit here.”

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