On love and happy endings
“I’ll think of it all tomorrow, at Tara. I can stand it then. Tomorrow, I’ll think of some way to get him back. After all, tomorrow is another day.”
I flipped back cover of the book I was reading, looking for more text.
I examined the edge where spine held the pages. Surely, some pages had been torn. Nope. They weren’t.
No! I screamed in my mind. This can’t be!
I read the last page over and over until I had it memorized. There were no clues about what happened next. I had this sinking feeling, like I had been dumped. Nah, make that slapped, punched, and then dumped — by a book. Wasn’t ‘Gone With the Wind’ supposed to be a love story?
So, tomorrow is another day. But what happens tomorrow? Does Scarlett get Rhett? She is tenacious, would definitely go after him. But Rhett has had enough. When you long for something for too long, you reach a tipping point. He cared for her well-being, but did not feel the same way anymore. So, what happens? Human emotions are complex. It’s not impossible for Rhett to fall back in love. Is it? Oh God! Somebody just tell me what happens!
My feelings had been shared by an entire nation when the book was first released in 1936 in the US, and by generations after that. People had demanded a sequel, which Margaret Mitchell refused to write. [It is rumored she herself did not know what happened next. She never completed the story in her mind!] After Mitchell’s death, Mitchell Trust asked one Alexandra Ripley to write a sequel, which was named Scarlett. I’ve never read a sorrier book.
Anyhow, I just could not get my head around the story. In months that followed, I lived in a trance. The nail-biting curiosity about what happens next was soon replaced by melancholy of unrequited love. I wrote to my friend:
Life is so fragile. How lucky are those who find true love. And how tragic it is when those lucky few remain blind to the treasure they posses. By the time their eyes open, it’s too late. The love of their life is gone. And they are left alone in the world.
Do we ever look around and see those who love us? Do we truly appreciate those who are there for us? We should, because one day they won’t be there, and we will be left with a hole in our lives that no person can fill. And we may run after them, but they won’t return. We’ll be left with only regret and loneliness.
Life can be beautiful, if we find the one who is meant for us; and it can be hell, if we find the one and lose him…
I don’t actually remember what I wrote. But this is what it would have looked like, perhaps more vague.
N called a few weeks later.
“Are you in love?”
“What?! No! Why would you think that?”
“I showed your letter to M and she agrees. You have someone in your life.”
“Huh? No! It’s a book. You see, there’s this woman called Scarlett who is in love with a man called Ashley. But Ashley is married. And then there is this guy called Rhett… Anyway, it’s complicated. Go read ‘Gone With the Wind’. You’ll get it.”
“Umm… okay. It was a book?”
I could tell she didn’t believe a word. She probably thought I was hiding something.
FYI, I wasn’t in love. In fact, I had never been in love. I was 14, and fancied we could choose the person we would fall in love with, and that love happened only once. The book had filled me with fear of losing out on my true love. What if I have my Mr. Perfect next to me, and I remain blind to him, and then he leaves forever? What if I’m Scarlett? I kept going over the story and taking mental notes on ‘How to know your Mr. Perfect is in front of you’. Like life’s that simple!
That fear introduced me to the world of ‘what ifs’. It’s a depressing place to be, for ‘what ifs’ are never ‘what is’. How I wished Scarlett had called out to Rhett when she was recovering from her fall! It seemed stupid that she would not recognize that Ashley is a wuss! But then, life never comes with background music. It’s tragic to lose out on something so beautiful because we’re too busy running after illusions. If only we had the power to change the past! Caution: ‘if onlys’ are the building blocks of ‘what ifs’.
For months I obsessed over the story. I kept re-reading passages to find some closure. When none came, I made up a sequel. Scarlett runs after Rhett, but he keeps her at an arm’s length, until she takes a bullet for him (literally). Then, as she lies in his arms bleeding, his feelings come rushing back, and they reunite. Cheesy much? Blame Bollywood. I named the sequel: Scarhett. You see what I did there? I had many alternative scenarios in mind, each resulting in a reunion. One had nostalgia, other played on guilt, another on gratitude. I craved for a happy ending, and became increasingly distraught. Nothing helped. Perhaps, it was the lack of ‘happy ending’ that made ‘Gone With the Wind’ such a great love story. Don’t epic romances have tragic ends? Romeo and Juliet? Heer and Ranjha? Perhaps, Scarlett and Rhett were fated to be never together. Oh! Why was life so sorrowful?
One fine day, I decided I had had enough. I reached the tipping point of longing, like Rhett had. I locked the book in a cupboard and fought every urge to pick it up. It wasn’t easy, but I persisted. It took me a lot of time to snap out of it, but eventually I did. Then, I cursed myself for ever picking up that book. Why did I do that?
I’ll tell you why. We were moving to a different city and I had found the book during one of the endless ‘sorting’ sessions mom did before the actual packing. It was an old book, and I couldn’t resist taking a whiff. It smelled so nice! It had beautiful yellowed pages. Love at first sight… and smell. I was hooked. Then I saw the first page. It was a gift from dad to mom before they were married.
Love be damned!
1. I finished writing this today (June 2) for an assignment on “A piece of art that moved me”. Turns out, today Olivia de Havilland, who played Melanie Wilkes in the movie and is the last surviving actor from the cast, is celebrating her 99th birthday! Also, ‘Gone With the Wind’ was first published on June 30, 1936. So, it celebrated its 79th anniversary recently. Here’s a tribute to one of my favourite books.
2. This is a repost. The original blog was published on June 2 on my other blog site.
3. Here’s an interesting piece on Why we should keep reading ‘Gone With the Wind’