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.