Anjali drove out of the town heading up the valley, following the direction she had once taken as a four-year-old. The sun was shining coolly through the windscreen as she approached the point where the river ran against a long, green meadow, its edges shaded by willows.
She stopped and, as she opened the car door, the river reached out to her with a memory of childhood. She could sense the damp breath of the river from across the meadow, and she could hear it turning down the valley from its bed.
‘If you cannot decide what you are, then let the river decide,’ were her uncle’s words.
The meadow had a footpath along one edge. The path crossed the river by a narrow stone bridge.
Anjali followed the footpath, which was muddy in places, and sat down on the dry stone wall edging of the bridge. She could see the water playing across boulders and tugging at willow branches as it ran down towards her from upstream. The cold and angled light of the late afternoon made the water appear to flow like silk. To Anjali it also had the allure of silk. When you stand amongst it, touch it, smell it, you know that those who deny its power are the ones who lack the honesty that silk has in its every stitch. The most beautiful of fabrics will always support you. You just need to reach out to them.
In the meeting with Eileen, with the clattering of old machinery reaching through the walls, she had sensed that even for the Factory Manager’s Personal Assistant, a woman who had sounded so convinced of the power of the designs they had shared, her memory of events had been altered. The essential details had been sketched over again. There was not even the finest acceptance, throughout those clattering weaving sheds, of the truth of Anjali’s creation of influence-through-design. It was an idea that would not fit within their narrow confines.
Anjali had witnessed the colour and texture and form that surrounded that Director’s board meeting in a chiffon of conviction. It had existed, it had occurred, she was sure of that.
‘When there is no honesty in memory, what is the point of it?’ she said to the river. ‘To serve this Factory Manager’s agenda, memory is modified and belief is wrapped loosely around it. If any particular truth does not contribute to the blueprint for his struggle for a slither of power, it is cast aside, it is thrown out of recollection and might just as well never have existed.
If the facts do not fit the requirement, he reaches for a convenient patch and sews it into place with an unbreakable thread and a bent needle.’
The river continued its steady flow beneath the bridge.
‘I cannot give up on this,’ she said to herself. ‘I have created garments that are eloquent; garments that communicate in an irresistible way; and a fine garment will never finish saying what it has to say.
Designing garments springs from necessity, just as the river springs from the unavoidable flow of water from the hills. Water makes a river, and the river has no choice but to flow. Design makes a true tailor, and a true tailor has no choice but to create.’
Anjali fell silent. She had suddenly realised that these were just words. She had started to doubt herself. Design is the answer to a series of questions. Questions arise out of doubt. All design is built on a foundation of doubt.
Doubt, for Anjali, like the damp of the valley, was always in the air. Her understanding of what she had achieved with her fabrics, the way that her designs had lifted and carried the presentation to the Danish Board, was beginning to evaporate as mist evaporates as the morning advances.
Anjali looked down into the quiet river, hoping that some explanation would be swirling in its steady depths. All she could see was the empty flow of water against the scattered gravel bed of the river.
Then there was a ripple of wind across the valley. The flat surface of the waters creased and a light drizzle, which had come from nowhere, trimmed the surface with a sequin of circles. The pattern had altered. The river was running with reflections again.
Anjali stared deeply into the weaving waters and the outline of an idea soaked into her mind.
‘Did you think I would forget you?’ said the river.