Archive | October 2013

Gone With The Wind


When my mother was halfway through Gone with the Wind, my neighbor who had lent it to her, asked for it back since she had to return it to her college library. For some reason, she wasn’t able to renew it for a few more days. Some agonizing weeks and desperate, futile inquiries later, a family friend got her a copy from his college library, a government college library where it had been collecting dust over the years.  Thrilled, she spent long nights sitting on the kitchen step after her chores, picking up the book from where she had been rudely interrupted.

My mother has the habit of making characters from the book she is currently reading a household name. She tells us anecdotes from the books or makes character comparisons to real life people.  So even before I read the book, I had a pretty good idea about Scarlett O’Hara, the size of her waist and the political situation in the United States back then. I once even referred to the civil war in a school essay, totally out of syllabus.  And then, some time later, I sat through two video cassettes of the movie, without a clue as to what was going on. But at 13, I knew that Gone with the Wind was something big. Something I had to put down on my List.

Three years later, digging into the shelves of the public library, the one where all books had a uniform uncharacteristic brown binding and were stacked two deep in wooden cupboards that smelled of Book, I stumbled across a fat copy of Gone with The Wind. It had last been checked out almost seven years ago. It was my time to discover Scarlett O’Hara.

I was all of 16, the age where I believed that First Love could be the only love. Oh, how I rooted for Ashley. My penfriend from Calcutta was reading the book at the same time and we exchanged blue inland letters filled with our thoughts about goody-goody Melanie, the cad that Rhett was and kept our fingers crossed for Scarlett to finally get Ashley. She didn’t ,and I shut the book totally disappointed.

More than a decade later, I picked up a copy from a footpath in Bangalore. It was like reading it with Lasiked eyes this time. The book seemed completely different from the last time I’d read it. Scarlett had matured with me. I no longer related to the frivolous girl, flirting with the twins and yearning for a wimpy Ashley. She was the woman fighting the war now. I wept the tears Scarlett didn’t, thought the thoughts she’d planned to think Tomorrow and ran through the mist with her, searching for Rhett.  Suave Rhett. With the image of Clark Gable flashing in every smirk, every smile , Rhett was The Man this time. The cad, the lover, the father and finally, the husband. The one I rooted for.

And then I went and big fat read Scarlett. I had to read Gone with the Wind again. To remove the bad taste the sequel had left in my mind.

And also, since I hoped that this time Rhett would change his mind and stay.

The Book Stories

Every time I go home, I stand in front of this bookshelf and slide the glass doors open. The musty smell of old print and naphthalene balls hits my senses, I breathe it in. I caress the spines of the books, first with my eyes and then with the tips of my fingers.  Fondly, gently.  Every book in this shelf has its own story. A treasure chest of memories, two deep, two high.

I have this policy when it comes to books.  As unscrupulous as it sounds, I believe that borrowed books need not be returned unless the lender asks for it back. The logic behind this is that if the person actually cares for the book, they’ll want it back.   If not, the book is in a better , happier home with us. Well, not exactly stealing, is it? So half, ok, that’s an exaggeration, twenty percent of the books in my house aren’t technically mine. But since they’ve lived on this bookshelf for more than a decade, ignored by their rightful owners, it makes them naturalized citizens of my bookshelf.

The stories of the books in this blog are all before online shopping made acquiring books too easy and impersonal. Some of these books were picked out from a pile of tattered secondhand books in front of Sada’s vadai shop. The ones he felt were too complete to tear up and wrap greasy vadais in.  Some of them, lovingly gifted by people who couldn’t actually read them. There are a few, un-returned to the library that was shutting down (I told you, unscrupulous). Some, bartered with fellow book lovers for mutually preferred authors. Some, pirated copies picked up from outside railway stations. (I don’t buy pirated books now). There are sample copies of books that were sent by publishers to my English Professor uncle . Books left behind by guests who had no space in their luggage after holiday shopping. There are a couple of books that someone had left behind on the train. There’s nothing more painful that losing a book that you’re halfway through. If those books had an address on them, I certainly would have sent them back.

I have a copy of Irving Wallace’s The Second Lady  with the last few pages missing. I still don’t know what happened to the fake First Lady. I have a gilt edged copy of The Pilgrims’ Progress, antique, but unread. I have Little Women in various stages of abridgment. Right from the simplest version I received as a prize in 5th standard up to the original unabridged version I bought a few years back. And then are also three copies of Five Point Someone.

There won’t be many book reviews on this blog. Just the stories behind each little book. is what inspired me to start this blog today.