Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 4, Issue 10, Tuesday March 13 , 2007



Special Feature

Ladies, it ain't easy bein' independent

I don't want to be like Cinderella,
Sitting in a dark, cold, dusty cellar,
Waiting for somebody to come and set me free

~ Cheetah Girls

She blundered into fashionable society in the genteel South, chased her dreams with a 'fiddle dee-dee' to the conventions of the day, braved the wagging tongues and raised eyebrows and managed to stand tall when others were falling around her. She stuck to what she believed in, went after who and what she wanted with a keen single-mindedness, and kept her head high even when hope was bleak, saying "After all, tomorrow is another day." Even the immovable Rhett Butler had to exclaim, "What a woman". I'm talking about Scarlett O'Hara, of course. My hero.

I'm always met with raised eyebrows when I make that revelation. Why in the world would a cold, self-centred, scheming man-chaser be my hero? My advice to these Clark Gable fans has always been the same: go read the book. With all due respect to the fabulous Vivian Leigh, the movie Gone with the Wind didn't do Scarlett's character any justice. Only in the book are you able to appreciate Scarlett's finer points as well as her flaws; her generous heart, her intelligence and ingenuity, and above all, her indomitable spirit. Only then can you fathom her situation: a passionate girl with a good head on her shoulders, being raised to be window-dressing, taught the skills of a coquette by the very society that later despises her for being good at it. In fact, she is victimised by her success throughout the story; when she saves Tara, when she takes over her husband's failing business and makes money from it, and when she marries Rhett and becomes even richer than before. Instead of being lauded for her tenacity, she is stigmatised. The best part is, does she care? Fiddle dee-dee!

I'm no bra-burning feminist, but it truly irks me to see strong, independent women being demonised just because they dared to be different, dared to make something out of a bad situation. Not for me- the insipid Rapunzel, waiting for a prince to rescue her, or a simpering Jane Bennett who sits and waits for Mr Bingley to notice her, or even a pathetic Paro glorifying the abuse the loser Devdas heaps on her. I'd choose Princess Fiona over Sleeping Beauty any day. So for readers out there, who like a little grit and gumption in their heroines, this list of books is for you:

Scarlett - Alexandra Ripley's sequel to Margaret Mitchell's blockbuster saga takes off where Gone with the Wind left off; with Rhett leaving Scarlett just as she becomes aware of her feelings for him. The novel takes the reader from Atlanta back to Tara, and then skits across the oceans to Ireland for a truly adventurous conclusion. Expect all the ingredients that made the original popular; the catty ladies, the adversities, Rhett in all his incorrigibly brutish charm, and Scarlett retaining her fire and stubbornness.

Although criticised by GWTW purists for deviating from Mitchell's vision, I personally felt that Ripley remained true to the central characters, and in particular, Scarlett's blossoming to maturity felt very natural and realistic. This is definitely a fitting end for the story of Scarlett and Rhett.

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood - One request. Do NOT watch the movie before you've read the book. It will completely put you off this emotional roller coaster of a read. You'll laugh, cry, and smile again as the complexities of a mother-daughter relationship slowly unravel through painful recollections and funny flashbacks. Spanning across three generations of Louisiana women, spread against the backdrop of social change comes this story about love, loss, and friendship that transcends all other bonds. At the core of this heart-warming novel is Vivi Walker, a vibrant, melodramatic woman with a dark side to her nature. When the years of tension between Vivi and her eldest daughter Sidda, now a 40-something playwright come to a head, each is forced to confront painful memories of her childhood, and the slow, arduous journey to a better understanding begins. Helping them along is Vivi's posse of gal pals who call themselves the Ya-ya Sisterhood. Every girl needs her Sisters!

She flew the Coop - This novel is Gloria Gaynor's 'I will Survive' personified. Vangie Nepper's little domestic heaven comes crashing down around her when her teen-aged daughter Olive, upon discovering that she is pregnant, drinks rose poison and is rendered comatose, and Vangie discovers her pharmacist husband in the throes of a steamy affair with his counter-girl DeeDee Robichaux. As the tongues of Limoges continue to wag, she struggles to come out of this situation without being the victim. Gritty, darkly humorous and studded with a variety of recipes, this book is a must-read.

Arranged Marriages - After all those stories about Louisiana ladies, a little desi dhamal should not be unwelcome, right? Try out this collection of short stories by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. From the tale of a Bangladeshi village woman fleeing her abusive husband, to the story of two West Bengal women, one living in the US, the other in India, and how their lives differ, this collection is bittersweet and emotional, and each story is as inspirational as the next.

The name 'Arranged Marriages' is an apt one, because each situation is comparable to that of an arranged marriage; you know about it, but you don't really know what it's like till you enter one, and it involves leaving behind the comfort of the familiar to step into the unknown.

What ties all these books together are the strong female characters who defy all odds, be they domestic strife, or economic crisis, or the loss of a loved one. Each of these women is flawed, imperfect, and all the more real and identifiable for that. This month, why not take a break from those sappy romance novels and meet some real women?

By Sabrina F Ahmad

By The Way

Get into the habit of giving your hair a break once a week. It is not necessary to wash your hair every day (unless you are a teenager, have a dirty job or work up a real sweat every day). If you are over the age of 20, and do not have any rashes or infections (like dandruff), give your hair a break for a whole day. Pick a day where you normally do not go out, or just do housework and run errands. Do not wash with shampoo and do not heat style.

If you just feel too grubby and must do something, after brushing your hair thoroughly to distribute the sebum, simply wet your hair, apply a little daily conditioner to the ends, rinse well, and then pull back into a “wet look” ponytail or bun. Give your hair a break from shampooing once a week, and whenever possible, from blow-drying and heat styling.


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