Workers mill about sipping their tea surrounded by seven frames of material with unfinished embroidery. The materials all make up one single angarakha dress with a seven- metre long ghera ordered by the daughter of an MLA, Arif Miyan tells us.
There is a quiet and non-descript look about the building situated in a narrow lane of Mehdipatnam where Arif Miyan and his brother Haji Sahab have been quietly running their karchob (embroidery) under their father’s name Afzal Miyan Karchobwale for the past 70 years.
In fact, one can’t tell that there are over 5- 6 workshops in this area all dealing with karchob. “Our father, Afzal Miyan, started the shop at a time when there was not much work around for hand-embroidered material. But his skill was such that his popularity grew steadily and soon people started coming to him for karchob on bridal trousseaus, sherwanis, sarees, etc,” says Arif who looks after the workshops, while Haji looks after the shop in Laad Bazaar.
Their repute is solely by word of mouth, and their clients are among the well-known families of the city and their work is unmatched to this day. The Nizam’s family continues to be their loyal patron having been introduced to their magic with karchob by Begum Bashir Yar Jung many years ago. As the two brothers begin to tell us their story, Haji Sahab’s phone rings and he shows us the caller who is a member of the last Nizam’s family. Tight-lipped on the details of the client’s order, it is this discreet quality that has led to a clientele spanning generations of families, both in the State and country. Many big fashion designers such as Tarun Tahiliani, Sabyasachi come to them for reference in new collections.
Year after year, Arif and Haji Karchobwale and their workers turn out one masterpiece after another of hand-embroidered ensembles, masnads, pillow covers, sarees which are all unique. Their expertise with recreating and reimagining traditional designs in zardosi, gota, farsi, kamdani, dookh ka kaam is their USP. “The colours we use are muted; you will see more of light purple, reds, maroon, blues, etc. Our patterns are the result of samples collected by our father. Some samples are 100 years old. We work on an order basis, which have been given to us almost one-two years prior. Karchob work is time-consuming and can take months if it involves gold or silver thread work,” explains 55-year-old Arif who pulls out a dark red masnad with pure silver dookh ka kaam that shines under the natural light. The understated grandeur of the material is hard to miss.
The masnad, he says, is made-to-order that took five to six months to finish. “Agar pure silver ka kaam hai toh saare workers sab kaam chodke silver work ke kaam mein lagenge, bahut etiyaad ka kaam hai yeh. Earlier, we used to do more of clothes but now we do everything. We source most of the thread from Surat like spangles, beads, seed pearls, wire, gota and kinari,”says Haji.
Their karigars belong to UP, Bihar, Kolkata apart from Hyderabad. Known for their sancha dupattas with intricate silver thread embroidery, Arif rues that coming by skilled workers and staying true to traditional patterns is a challenge now. “Dwindling number of workers, rising prices of the thread and GST have had a considerable impact on our business. Nevertheless, this is our legacy and we will continue the work,” adds Haji.