One little known voice of compassion comes from Hyderabad, where Kusuma Rajaiah—after years of research—now produces silk without killing the worms. A senior technical officer with APCO (Andhra Pradesh Handloom Weaver’s Cooperative Society), Kusuma’s search for eco-friendly and humane silk dates back to the ’90s when Janaki Venkataraman, wife of former president R. Venkataraman, asked for a silk sari that did not involve the killing of worms on her visit to APCO. The same request cropped up in 2000, when Amala Akkineni, actress/dancer and animal activist, visited APCO.
Silk comes from the cocoons of the silk worm (bombyx mori). In the silk industry, cocoons are killed by steaming or dropping them into boiling water when they are ten days old, before they metamorphose into a moth. The silk is believed to be the finest at this stage. This is preferred because when the cocoons open naturally at one end, to release the moth, the continuity of the fibre is lost. But maybe not, thought Kusuma.