As Anjali grew, her desire for her own style of tailoring grew with her. She wanted to fully-fashion garments, to perform the art of the couturier from the opening design to the final stitch. This was the cut of her ambition. It was a pleat of imagination and determination that ran right through her.
But again, the journey along that river was going to be longer than she had envisaged. Her uncle understood her ambition – as he very much saw himself in Anjali – but his experience had taught him the true value of a correctly measured approach.
‘You have to cut your cloth according to the means available,’ he said, whilst Anjali’s mother nodded from the kitchen door. ‘The machines of Asia pour out garments that the people of this poor corner of the world can at least afford.’
‘Although they hang from their bodies like curtains,’ added her father from the far end of the kitchen.
‘You cannot afford to make such garments in a tailoring business. Tailoring in this valley only has a future if it becomes a service. You cannot manufacture and compete in today’s standardised clothing market, but you can repair and adjust the clothing of those who do still appreciate fine garments. I know this is not your dream, but it is a rung on the ladder that will lead to your dream. Most importantly, the family will be able to afford to help you to set up such a business. It is the simple machines of the skilled tailor that you need, not the electronically harnessed production that only investment capital can support.’
Her uncle could see her disappointment and attempted to console her.
‘You are cut out of the right material, Anji. You are soft as Egyptian cotton where that is required and hard as a thimble when that is needed. Be proud of what you are and what you do, and your ambitions will be realised.’
Her uncle took off his thick glasses, cleaned them and then replaced them gently with one steady hand. The drape of his voice changed to match the occasion.
‘On one of my first days in his mending shop,’ he began, ‘my father asked me to tack a torn seam. I told him, asking me – a trained and skilled tailor – to mend this seam is like asking a sous chef to feed your dog. But Anjali, just look at the regular customers who come, today, to my repairs and alterations shop. We feed any dog that they choose to set down in front of us and, because of that, we have a fine and profitable reputation in this valley.’
With the support of her family, a hefty investment and much business advice from her uncle – belt-and-braces support as he called it – Anjali established a ‘garment repair and adjustment’ shop in Arrow Street. It was a narrow street that ran straight into the cobbled centre of the town.