In Memoriam P.R.M

“And, something written, something thought”[1]

As I look through her things and read her words, my mother’s voice echoes in my head. She calls me lovingly sometimes, other times she chides. And at the end of this reverie, her incredible laugh breaks any unpleasant memories. My mother lived a happy life of 57 years, even as her body gave up, her mind continued to be alert and sharper than the rest of us. One of my last loving memories is in the hospital in her last month when I had just arrived from Bangalore. The doctor asked her, “Who is your strength? Your husband, brother or your children?” She looked at him, smiled and said, “I’m the strength of the family of course.” And so she is and always will be. It’s going to be difficult but I have already begun to feel her in every thought and decision I make, every emotion that runs in my body. Her love and her work remain extraordinary in many ways as she leaves us all with pieces of her. My friend, guide and dearest mother, you have made me who I am today and I feel special to call you my close companion for the rest of eternity. Love and laughter to you, as that is what I will remember you by.

Anandi Mehra

Priya’s daughter Anandi has recently graduated in Contemporary Art and Design, and is interested in practicing film, photography and printmaking. She imbibed much of her mother’s aesthetic sensibility and wants to continue to explore mixed media and writing.

Priya at home, working on her rafoogari manuscript. Photo: Smriti Vohra


I often speak about my mother as an artist and a textile researcher, in the context of her Rafoogar Project, whose meaning I truly understood only after she dragged me on one of her “expeditions” to Scotland in 2011. It meant the art of repairing, restoring and reviving the meaning and history of a cloth. Darning became a symbol of healing for her, analogous to her own situation. In 2017 she had a solo exhibition at Threshold Gallery where she showcased her own life and its elements of healing, restructuring, and mending.

In addition to her bravery, selflessness, or perseverance, I will always remember her by her unique laugh that summarised her ability to find joy in the worst of times and the ability to fight back. Moreover, it showed who she was.

Every time I think of my mother I think of only three words: Artist-Mother-Warrior

Udayan Mehra

Priya’s son Udayan is currently in the 12th grade and his interests are debating, photography and music.

L to R: Siddhant Kalra, Udayan Mehra and Satchin Joseph Koshy in Priya’s study, preparing for the LILA summer workshop, ‘Sing Along with the BEATLES’ (2014). Priya’s spaces were always open for us to learn, experiment and celebrate. Background: Priya’s rafoo-based artwork. Photo: Rizio


Priya, my laughing Buddha,

Our connect, incidental, but eventually so essential. We both instantly developed an instinctive communication pattern which didn’t require being in constant touch. In fact we were together despite not often being physically together and I was immensely grateful for that. Your flowering contributed to the flowering of all around you as the insights you developed opened doors for others to follow. This spread of effervescence in turn fed your own growth and became an organic rooting system, interconnected and joyful, just what you looked forward to.

We found ourselves being nurtured by this subterranean stream of positivity and small revelations of the ideas of beauty and aesthetic pleasures. The appreciation and connect with nature translated to mutual respect, understanding, bonding among all friends and relationships around you. This is not to eulogise or to see you as an icon, but try to understand where this graciousness came from. The incessant inquisitive energy that propelled you to greater depths has helped all of us to also attempt the same.

Love, laughter, inclusiveness and all the material joys of our five senses have been the spices of a life fully lived. Spirituality was born of this chemistry. So Priya, be seeing you soon,

With much love


A long-time close friend of Priya, Amba Sanyal is a theatre and film actor and costume designer.

Priya, her editor Smriti Vohra (left) and Amba Sanyal in Priya’s garden, enjoying an animated discussion about Priya’s art practice while she teases out fibre from a special moistened bark to use in her mixed-media work. Smriti Vohra sent this picture, in remembrance of the spirit of the day, and many such days.


The first time I met Priya-di was as recently as in March 2014, but her affectionate and loving personality made me feel as if I had known her for a long time. At that time she was looking for a medium that could supplement her existing textiles and woven pieces. She came over and worked at Nirupama Academy and loved the experience. She came back to work on several occasions over the next three years and always enjoyed working at my paper-making studio where she produced a substantial body of work between March 2014 and November 2017.

One can notice two distinct paper making techniques in Priya-di’s paper and textile-based works. She implemented layering method in most of them. Layering is similar to collage technique. Various materials can be inserted on a newly formed damp sheet of paper by overlaying it with another newly formed thin layer and the process can be repeated many times over. Priya-di preferred to work with pulp and paper produced from white cotton rag and brownish ‘ramie’ fibre. The combination of heavily beaten ramie and cotton rag offers enormous strength to the paper. It behaves like a wet canvas. After going through initial experimentation with different plant fibres she thought of using some of them due to their colour, inherent strength and malleability. On the damp paper surface she worked with textiles and woven pieces of her own making as well as ones collected from other sources. Off and on, plant fibre strands and plant parts were also used. After placing various materials on the base paper, she covered some areas with pulp and paper layers. She literally juggled with materials so casually that I often caught myself wondering – is art-making that easy? It was obvious that her clear understanding of the inherent characteristics of organic substances and a strong sense of design helped her along in making it seem so playful and effortless. She often treated pulp and paper layers to reconstruct and repair her damaged, unused textiles and woven pieces. It was never merely an exploration of materials but a metaphoric act of healing that reflected her tireless battle to heal herself in the face of a dreaded disease that affected one organ after another but was kept in check for over a decade.

The second technique that Priya-di had opted for was linear paper relief sculpture. On a deckle (wooden frame used in paper making) she tied threads, sticks and fabric strips end to end. Then dipped the deckle into a tub filled with pulp and scooped it up. Pulp dispersed randomly on those elements and created a woven, undulated grid-like structure. When dried and removed from the deckle the semi-transparent linear paper relief with rugged edges created patterns that recalled veins and capillaries under the skin.

Priya-di always carried a huge folder bag filled with different kinds of woven fabric, textile pieces, dried plant parts, seeds and fabric remnants when she came to work at my studio. Each of them were packed in separate pouches and placed sequentially the way she wanted to use them. There was a notebook she carried that had her work plan and related texts and sketches. She did her homework so meticulously that immediately upon entering the studio she could start working over a cup of tea.    

She kept on collecting varied raw materials from different places she visited and loved using them in the process of building her imagery. She used to start constructing the image with a clear idea that often lead to unexpected outcomes. Every time she created a new series she gained enormous confidence over the medium and that got reflected in the resultant imagery. She enjoyed the process of making art as much as the completion of her final piece. A month before her demise, she expressed her willingness to work on a bigger scale. She knew that her days were numbered and was slowly losing control of her fingertips due to strong medications. But her intense love and passion for creating new works lasted till the end.

Whenever Priya-di visited Kolkata, she made it a point to work in my studio and stay with us. When she used to analyse her work and thought process, she was always very absorbed and serious but otherwise when she would narrate personal anecdotes, stories about her family, friends and relatives she would invariably be jovial – full of her innocent laughter and exuberance. I feel really lucky to have met an elder sister like her. The world of art will be poorer without her. We shall miss not being able to experience more of Priya Ravish Mehra.

Anupam Chakraborty

Anupam is Founder and Creative Director Nirupama Academy of Handmade Paper


Ten Days

Since you left

You’ve clung to me like cling wrap.

I need to peel you off

So I can breathe!

               Like a smile that slowly widens

               Like a peach skin peeling off

               Like the evening turning fragrant

               Love is growing huge, so huge!

Suns, moons, days and nights rotate

Time of birth, death, tossed dice of Fate.

Hands reach out, souls touch

Then turn around, unknown and strange.

               Ever since you left I wonder

               Who was it I loved, still love?

               I didn’t know you, so this must mean

               You made me see myself, with love –

I thought I heard a familiar voice

Not calling me and yet I turned

Maybe my friend is calling, calling

Me, but by another word…

               Pulling me with silken strands

               Unseen cobwebs now enmeshed.

               Friendship as fragile as living

               Snap and vanish just as quick.

Morning colours blaze the clouds

So brief, so soon they’re gone.

But they linger, in their absence,

Scab on an unhealed wound.

               Deep healing feels already happened…

               Perhaps wounds never cut miles under

               Layers of maitreya and myth where flows

               Love to whet our thirst for wonder.

And what peeled off was just a shred

Of skin grown tight as I have grown

Absorbed my friend, her laugh, her light,

Made her dreams my own…

Bharati Mirchandani

Bharati is a close family friend of Priya and has been a moral and spiritual support to her, both in her joy and woes

Kaapi LILA at Nasheman (‘the nest’), Priya’s residency space in Lajpat Nagar, June 2015. Dancer Navtej Johar (gesturing with hands) explains the deep connections between the Yoga and Samkhya schools of classical Indian philosophy. Seated on floor in blue shirt, Bharti; seated on chairs, Priya and Bharati’s sister Meena. Photo: Samuel Buchoul


I first met Priya in 1990 when I commissioned her to make a set of mogul-inspired bed sheets and pillow cases, which she hated. We argued all the time; she was very fiery. So I fired her, but then we became great friends. 

Priya–where do you start–she was one of a kind. Enthusiastic beyond belief, a complete wild card, open to anything. She carried on until the end with a love of life, ideas and the belief that everything was art. She was still a hippy.

And, I sit in a shack overlooking the sea in North Goa, under a metallic sky in monsoon, drinking a kingfisher beer and listening to Ali Farka Toure’s ‘In the Heart of the Moon’.   I celebrate that our paths crossed. She inspired me never to be daunted.

I’m going to miss that smile and her laugh.

Doug Patterson

Doug is an architect and an artist, having studied at the Royal college and the Architectural Association. He has been working in India for 25 years, commissioning artists and craftsmen for architectural projects in the UK, USA, and the West Indies.


I can’t remember a first memory of Priya, because she was always there. She preceded me in birth and we enjoyed a close, intense, cousin-sisterly childhood together with our brothers. Every year, we spent two months in our grandparents’ home in Bombay. Our mothers were the only siblings to each other and held each other in closeness all through their lives. We wrote letters to each other during the ten months we spent apart each year and the postman was considered a bringer of delight.

I watched my smart, pragmatic, unaffected cousin grow up. In early adulthood, we vanished into academic and other worlds that made us less familiar with each other’s lives. When I was married with children, I returned to meet a full-blown artist. Her work with textile arts and weaving in particular was spectacular and profound. Her earlier work reflected her thoughts on the offerings of nature and our hand in it. Her explorations went deeper, weaving the inherent natural art she witnessed, with life. When confronted with cancer, she took to analysing her being,  then Being, and the nature and structure of everything. In her later art, she took to unravelling old works and examining the structure of what made us all, conveying that the universe was woven from a single thread of an idea.

I miss the flesh-and-blood Priya, but she is now woven within me, tighter than we had ever been in life.

Gita Mazumdar

Gita is Priya’s cousin, and shared a close connection with her.

L to R: Gita Mazumdar, Priya, artist Riyas Komu and Rizio, at ILF Samanvay 2015, against the backdrop of Priya’s installation from the (In)visible series she created as set designer for the festival. Photo: Monica Dawar


Dear Anandi and Udayan, Ravish and extended Mehra family,

My heartfelt condolences to you all.

At this moment I find it very hard to accept that when I visit Delhi again, I won’t be welcomed with a great smile by Priya. It seems her home was the Delhi artist mecca for many of us from all over the world – several international artists I met at her home.

I have known Priya since the late 1980s when she was studying tapestry at the Royal College of Arts in London. I was a tapestry weaver as well seeking an advisory board member for our non-profit organisation, International Tapestry Network (ITNET), based in Alaska. Priya agreed to contribute tapestry articles to our newsletter. We were delighted to have representation from India and exchanged many missives. This started our relationship.

I saw Priya for the first time in a hotel on one of my tourist trips to India. I could have stared at her forever. She was such a beautiful, authentic looking, graceful woman with long black hair wearing a reddish sari and a red bindi on her forehead. To me she looked like someone out of an Indian coffee table picture book. Simply stunning! She was the first Indian woman with whom I interacted on a personal level.

I had fallen in love with India and made many more trips, always stopping to see Priya and always meeting other artists at her place at the same time. Her spirit was contagious. On each visit she was very cheerful, always in a good mood and always with a fresh idea in mind to explore. She was very independent in her thinking and approaches, which made her so interesting to listen to. She always had a very positive attitude about life and towards everything.

On another visit asking her what she was doing at present, she told me she was teaching tapestry weaving to prisoners. “In Prison!?”, I asked. How scary! How gutsy! Only Priya could pull this off. I pictured her all packed up with a portable loom and yarn arriving at prison, getting frisked at the entrance and teaching the inmates how to weave tapestry. Well, who else can say they have done that? Imagine! Priya was a very sensitive person with a golden heart always trying to improve or help out.

On another trip she was telling me about her work with the darners who were not getting the recognition they deserved. She explained that the rafoogars were repairing vintage pashminas, or mending fragments of very old textiles together with new textiles, and interweaving them so that one could not tell they were not initially all part of one piece.

I re-united with Priya in San Francisco where she gave a lecture about the darners during the Textile Society of America (TSA) Conference. Her breathtaking presentation was so captivating, you would have heard a needle drop to the floor.

My dear Priya, you touched our lives and shared yours. We all thank you wholeheartedly and are for ever grateful for the time you spent with us.

Now, I imagine Priya in the sky among all the famous goddesses being an endless inspiration to all and working as a team, trying to figure out what other aspect of textiles they can promote or revive.

Already I imagine her greeting us with a smile and infectious laugh when our time has come to join her. There will be this huge textile project for all of us to work on and contribute to. Priya, thank you forever for your friendship. You will always come to my mind when I think of the complexity of Indian textiles above and beyond.

Till then Priya, much love!

Helga Berry, Alaska



I cannot believe that you are not with us.  I just saw your photograph in my telephone and I felt as though you were reaching out to us. It brought back so many memories of spending time together. The fifteen days we spent in Kerala getting treatment from Vinod. Winter lunch in your garden, when you cooked organic food in your mud pots on a clay sigree using wood. Sharing your discovery of beautiful objects. Sharing your new work and your new perceptions. We miss you dearest friend.


Jasleen Dhamija is a Delhi-based eminent art historian and crafts expert known for her pioneering research on the Indian handloom and handicrafts industry, especially the history of textiles and constumes.

Priya at her Lotus Farm in Gurgaon with the participants of a workshop on organic farming. She envisioned growing a ‘fruit forest’ here, and has planted many different fruit trees. The vegetables grown here were always shared with friends, and at home she created special recipes for this produce. Centre, in blue shirt, her husband Ravish; in pink shirt, her daughter Anandi. Photo: Raj Mohan


I first came across Priya when I was visiting my Mamaji who was the Vice Chancellor at the same university where her parents were professors. Her mother showed me the fantastic collection of textiles she had collected over the years and we sat with her father looking at Priya and Tushar’s childhood pictures. They spoke at length about Priya.

Priya would visit us and spend time with us whenever she was back from Santiniketan and often spoke about her work. Later, I met Priya on many occasions. She came to teach some students with disability how to weave. She kept looms in her house where craftpersons came and worked. I visited her home whenever possible. She was generous and enthusiastically showed her work , her studio and her experiments. There was so much in her work, and I always came back full of enthusiasm that she infused in me.

She was also equally involved in organic gardening. She had developed her own way of making green compost. There is so much more to say… her work on healing with the rafoogars, her own work talking about healing, so full of harmony, and her experimentations with paper and indigo…How can I put it all in mere words. She was so full of life. I can only thank God that she came in my life, and will always remember her as a person full of life eternally…

Jolly Rohatagi

Jolly is an artist, writer and co-founder of an organisation called Jan Madhyam that addresses the needs of disabled and marginalised youth in creative and innovative ways.


We met on Priya’s first visit to London. I had graduated from the Royal College of Art as a weaver, and Priya, a young student in London, had a voracious appetite for  every aspect of textiles. Her husband, like mine, an architect. So, we were two textile artists with architects as partners. Perfect.

Through the many years that followed, we met as often as possible, in Delhi or London, travelling together to Kashmir or Mandu, Cambridge or the English countryside. It was always fun and a joy to be with her. She was endlessly enthusiastic and interested in every aspect of life, and her next exploration.

In her unconventional way she has touched all of our lives, artistically and humanly. Her approach to life was exceptional and wise. A very special and unique woman and artist. 

Joanna Buxton 

Joanna holds a Masters of Art degree from the Royal College of Art.


Expected but still unbelievable; known but still beyond understanding – the death of dear Priya Ravish Mehra. That someone of such talent, compassion, and positive energy can be no more is unimaginable.

Priya enriched my life in so many ways over the 30 or more years I knew her. I first loved her work, and then came to love her. Her sensitive design sensibility was always available to our craftspeople, informally and through the in-depth projects she did for Dastkar – with the Jawaja durrie Weavers and the namda craftspeople in Kashmir. She mixed her unique aesthetic with a practical common sense and humanity that the craftspeople immediately responded to. And she always saw the joke!

Everyone whose life was touched by her will have their own memories and stories. Each reflects her zest for life, her caring nature, her appreciation of humour, beauty, and the unexpected, and her concern for those less fortunate. However unwell she was these last few years, she always responded to the absurd and the beautiful, the unjust and the evil, the positive and the potential – an unusual textile, a plant in her garden, silly statements from a pompous politician, the love-life of friends or of her little dogs, the genius and foibles of her lovable, wayward brother, the latent skill in an otherwise ugly product, the means of turning it around… She was always a sharer.

Extreme right: Priya at Kaapi LILA featuring singer and musician Shahabaz Alam, at her home in September 2015. Photo: Samuel Buchoul

Her own artworks became more subtle, luminous, and eloquent as her journey became more uncertain, her body more fragile. Whatever the odds stacked against her, that infectious laughter, the enjoyment and the radiant smile were always there. So too the passionate engagement in her work and textiles.

From her hospital bed two days before she passed away, she characteristically wrote nothing of herself, but posted a photograph of the sky and forest, of birds flying. Her own spirit must be flying free now. How we will miss it.

Her hauntingly beautiful exhibition last year was presciently titled Presence In Absence. It gives comfort that part of her will always be with us.

Laila Tyabji

Laila is a designer, writer and crafts activist and one of the founders of Dastkar, a Delhi-based organisation working for the revival of traditional crafts in India


Priya, the indomitable cheer in our lives…

Priya used to call our friendship a friendship of generations. Her parents, my in-laws Pushpa and Dinkar Kowshik, and my aunt and uncle Sushila and K G Subramanyan were together at Santiniketan during the 1940s.

I was very close to her mother, and when Priya got cancer her mother used to get very anxious and worried. I had promised her that I would always be there for her. She had such a cheerful but steadfast spirit that whatever she took on she would do to the end. Her deep interest in research on the rafoogars of Najibabad was one such interest.

Cancer has taken her body but couldn’t touch her spirit and laughter which we still celebrate in her life. I miss her so much, her laughter was infectious, more than a month has passed but my heart and mind have not accepted it. I unknowingly still wait for her call.

Maneesha Kowshik 

Maneesha is a very close family friend, whose connection with Priya goes back to not only their parents’ generation but also Santiniketan


I have known Priya Didi from my childhood as we were neighbours in Najibabad. But it was not just being neighbours, she and her family were part of our family and vice versa. She has been like my elder sister since then. An elder sister who helped me study during my exams, an elder sister who was the only one to put mehendi on my hands on my wedding day. An elder sister who was my best friend for last 40 years till her last breath. Her journey through life as well as that towards death have been an inspiration to the world. Her positive attitude and willingness to find solutions in the most difficult situations of life, that too very joyfully, have inspired me and thousands of others. A self-motivated person like her is not just a source of creativity and art, perhaps she was creativity and art herself. Her work in the field of textile and rafoogari can be used as a source of reference for many research studies to be done in this field. Her value-addition in the field of textile is invaluable. A person like her is born once in a century. I think the most important lesson she has left behind is similar to her work, that “Life is like a torn piece of cloth, one has to learn the art of Rafoogari and make the imperfect cloth/life look beautiful.”

Meenu Amitabh

Meenu grew up together with Priya in Najibabad. She has been a continuous support to Priya all through her life.


Priya’s life, her illness and her death raise many questions for me. The first is that cancer as a disease is relentless – it spares no one. Not even the most beautiful and spirited of people, which is how I think of Priya.

Secondly, if I look back at the 14-year battle she waged to keep the disease at bay, the years are defined in equal parts by the endless rounds of chemotherapy and tests, by exhaustion, a struggle to eat but also by her being on the go at every opportunity. Priya was the ultimate, if somewhat unlikely, globetrotter. I would call on weekends to check if she felt up to a visit and would often be greeted by her infectious laughter telling me she was exploring a detox in South India or in Rajasthan or the hills. Scotland, China, Mexico, Bhutan… her wanderlust was endless. She loved to see new places and meet new people, all of whom would be added to her list of good friends. There was a restless yearning to her.

I learned that one could deal with a dreadful disease and yet be full of laughter and love and a zest for life. I don’t know how, but she had somehow conquered the fear that paralyses most people faced with a cancer diagnosis. She was determined to live her life. She did it without any self-pity. She took the treatment in her stride and seized every opportunity to live it up. Which is perhaps the only way to thumb our noses at the death sentence that cancer currently is for many people.

Thirdly, Priya always had tremendous clarity. Whether she spoke about her treatment, or about situations and crises and relationships in both our lives, she would interrogate them in depth. Which is perhaps the reason why her work became a metaphor for the illness – something damaged, something flawed, yet which had the ability to renew itself and become a thing of beauty in itself. This line of thought flowed into her understanding of textiles, colours, the bark of trees and skeins of resin that she handled and translated into works of art. Her art was not disconnected from her life, her memories of growing up in Najibabad, the town of darners, her childhood nurtured by parents steeped in the arts, her illness and her quest for answers. As an artist, Priya was able to unify these fragments.

Priya with rafoogar Shariq at a workshop on rafoogari as a healing therapy, held at an oncology unit of Max Hospital, Delhi. Photo: Smriti Vohra

I ask myself if this ability to unify is the consciousness of which spiritual seekers speak. Or is it the refusal to be defined by illness, however severe. Or is it the ability to surround oneself with love and laughter, to give and receive in equal measure, that tell us that we have arrived at our destination.

With deep gratitude for my time with Priya,

Her friend of three decades,


Ragini Pascricha works at BBC Media Action in India.


Priya’s capacity to see the tragi-comic in everything was evident in all her pursuits. I accompanied her to Old Delhi once to source a particular jute that she wanted to use for her work (In)Visible that she was making for the ILF Samanvay sets. We parked outside the Red Fort and walked, and went along the winding lanes of Old Delhi. The paths we treaded were twilit, the scents of different foods mixed with the sounds of various layers of humanity rubbing against each other. Priya was wearing a loosely stitched ochre kurta, and with her head nearly clean-shaven, she looked every bit a beautiful Buddhist monk We were laughing aloud about the antics of the shopkeepers that we met, completely oblivious of the surroundings. Then at some point, suddenly Priya stopped, looked around and said:

“Have you noticed, there is no woman except the two of us out on the street at this hour.”

I noticed, then.

“Look at the non-understanding in the eyes of these men,” Priya burst into another bout of laughter, not able to control herself. “See, this is a ‘red-light’ street of sorts; the women are all up there, and are looking at us through those windows.”

I involuntarily looked up, and saw many open windows.

“How do you know?” I asked Priya.

“I know,” she said. “From the faces of these men. They can’t place us, with your black shirt and trousers and belt and shoes and that long rudraksh and the big red bindi… they can’t decide. They think, I am the guru, and you are my chela. You are on your way to transformation. But they can’t place our laughter; they don’t understand why we are on this street at this hour,” she laughed on.

I miss you, Priya. Terribly.

Every time I open LILA’s facebook pages, it tells me Priya Ravish Mehra and so many others have liked this page. From your phone, Anandi sends me data to work on, and so I still get messages from you. Sometimes you call, too.

Just that I can’t call you. When I have a new idea and want to sound it out to you, when I want to find out which expert would be good to call for a cause, when I want to just run to a cool place in the middle of a hard day’s work, when I want to just eat some well-thought-out food and lie around lazily on a couch, I can’t call you and hear you say, “Come home!” the way you told me the first time I called you a few years back, and many many times after that. I won’t again see you walking into a seminar hall where we are organising something, and feel utterly relieved of all the tension, as I see you smile broadly, hug me warmly.

I miss you, Priya. All the time.

But I also know that you are here and now, with me, in everything I am doing, for, I still tell you things, and I still listen to you say a lot of things to me.


Rizio is a writer and Founder of LILA. Priya remains one of her closest friends.


It was by sheer chance that I came across Priya Ravish Mehra’s work in an exhibition catalogue sent to me by my friend Tunty. I was deeply moved by the images and the underpinnings of renewal and hope. Meeting her became an imperative, and when we finally did, it was a relaxed communing over food, and a sharing of stories and much laughter.

We had just one more meeting after that, but it seemed like there had already been a lifetime of sharing. That was Priya for me: joyous, alive, cherished forever. 

Salima Hashmi

Salima is an artist, curator, contemporary art historian, and former professor at Lahore’s National College of Arts.


The year was 1983 in Santiniketan. I was studying at Kala Bhavana, and one fine morning I went to Prof. Dinkar Kowshik’s house for my customary visit and the anticipation of a decent breakfast. We were chatting around the dining table, when a slim girl, clad in a cotton sari and with the most gorgeous smiling eyes ever, walked in – to the obvious delight of Mr. and Mrs. Kowshik.

I was introduced to Priya, with the reference that her parents also studied in Kala Bhavana and were well known to my mother (who was also an alumnus of Kala Bhavana). I was delighted to meet her, but we kept our distances as I was a senior ‘dada’, and she was just a newcomer. But very soon she caught up with my girlfriend Sheema, with whom my relationship was blooming at the time. They became best buddies in no time, and thus began a lifelong bond, which grew stronger over the years.

Priya’s radiant laughter became her identity. The hostel buddies had interesting times together. They roamed in the beautiful villages around Santiniketan, waded in knee-deep water on the river Kopai and generally soaked in the cultural ambience of Santiniketan.

Our visits to Delhi were incomplete without Ravish and Priya’s hospitality and love. And there were these strange telepathic connections, about which we used to discuss regularly. When my son (still in school) missed his flight in transit from Chandigarh to Pune and was stranded at the Delhi airport alone, it was Priya’s sudden phone call that saved the day!

Apart from being passionate about her textile research work, Priya had this penchant to delve deeper and dig out the human story behind the making or weaving of particular fabrics. Rafoogari appealed to her and she discovered a conceptual connection between that and her disease – how we try to mend things, to keep us going through life.

The last fourteen years, she became a rafoogar, par excellence. Mending, keeping her spirits high, bonding the family with love and compassion, and not giving up. Her laughter still rings in our ears.

Priya relaxing after a workshop on rafoogari as a healing therapy, held at an oncology unit of Max Hospital, Delhi. Photo: Smriti Vohra

Sheema and Rishi Barua

Sheema and Rishi Barua are artists and singers and friends of Priya from her Santiniketan time. Rishi Barua graduated from Kala Bhavan, Visva Bharati University, Santiniketan where he is currently a professor and Vice Principal.


In the short time that I knew her, Priya captivated my heart and mind with her warmth and genius. My regular professionally oriented visits to her place over the past year were nothing short of a fabric of joy, lined with delicious meals and laughter-filled conversations. She was so meticulous and well-organised that working with her never felt like a chore. In the course of even a busy day, we always managed to find time to reflect on and discuss a variety of things on our minds.

Priya was astonishingly intuitive. She had the unique ability to balance and contain seeming opposites within her. She managed to be a light-hearted, fun loving, food and social media enthusiast, and at the same time, a deeply reflective, philosophical, acutely relevant and serious artist, without the slightest contradiction. Even during our conversations, she would seamlessly switch from funny stories to humbling insights in the same breath, as if they were both an undivided part of her.  

I visited her in the hospital a few times, the last time she was there. She had clearly charmed the nurses, attendants and doctors in her own characteristic way, as was normal for her. She would pull her attendant into discussions on rafoogari, excitedly showing her images of children learning to darn at her latest show. You could palpably sense her passion and the energy it generated in her, even in that state. It was impossible to resist joining in and there was not a soul Priya did not energise.

I still feel that energy every time I think of you. I feel your warmth envelop me when memories of our times together come flooding into my mind. Thank you for everything, Priya. You gave me more than you realised.

I miss you dearly, and you will always live in my heart.

Shivani Karmarkar

Shivani is a social anthropologist who worked with Priya on cataloguing and archiving her artwork.


Lesser mortals pass away. Priya lives on through her work, associations, extensive research and contribution to the fields of art and textiles, and most importantly through each and every person who was even briefly touched by her magic. I am blessed to have associated with her and represented her work at her exhibition poignantly titled Presence in Absence. She wore many laurels lightly – an effervescent self effacing soul, an aesthete to the core, not a negative thought in her, an artist who created her own distinct vocabulary; even her choice of materials was unconventional (mostly from her garden!) as was her method of working. She packed so much into each day. She once told me she never plans for the next day. She lived life to the fullest, took it in gulpfuls, and grabbed those three-week gaps between her chemos. Just being touched by her has had a huge impact on my life. She taught me what living in the present meant. Her lovely family – Ravish, Anandi, Udayan – were her strength, the wind beneath her wings.

A Taurean woman is a Tall Woman, but this Braveheart stood tall through all her tribulations. She literally laughed her worries away, ever ready with her smiles and anecdotes, her infectious laughter echoes in our midst. Today, each of us who were blessed to be part of her circle of love, feel her presence in every possible way.

Tunty Chauhan

Tunty is an Art Curator and Gallerist at the Threshhold Gallery in Delhi.

L to R: Udayan Mehra, Priya, Rizio and (standing) Tunty Chauhan, at the opening of Priya’s show Presence in Absence (2017). Photo: Anandi Mehra

[1] Line from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s elegy “In Memoriam A.H.H”

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