Two words, one name, an entire culture.
Harry Potter. Need I say more? Most of us born in the late ’80s have this series to thank for a large chunk of our literary simulation. The seven parts which kept us yearning and learning for a decade, the auxiliary books and the movies based on the series that followed have finally come to an end.
The HP series has had a profound impact on me over the years. I think it is one of those tales that has driven home the simple message, ‘Good triumphs Evil’ in a way that has captured the essence of morality. My magical journey started when I was eleven years old and had heard in passing that a new book, ‘Harry Potter’ was all the rage. Being one who chooses the path less traveled and generally shuns fads, the name popped into my head when my dad, who was on his way to the weekend Daryaganj book bazaar (in Old Delhi), asked me if I wanted anything to read. A few hours later, I had in my hands two books, obvious pirated copies of ‘Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone‘ and ‘Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets‘ and my dad proclaiming that he was the best bargainer in the world – he had harangued the pavement bookwallah to sell him the books for twenty rupees (no, not each).
They say certain events are imprinted in your memory such that whenever you recall them, the original experiences as well as the responses they evoked are as clear and fresh as early morning dew on lush green grass. I remember vividly, it was raining heavily around 2:30 p.m. and the weather was pleasantly cool, almost bordering on chilly – a relief from the dusty Delhi afternoons ubiquitous for the end of July, when I opened the first page of the first book in the HP series ‘Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone’ after considerable gaping and examination of its inviting blue and green cover carrying on it the illustration of Harry’s bespectacled face, his quizzical expression, the lightening-shaped scar on his forehead and the bright red Hogwarts Express‘ black chimney puffing away gold star-laden purple magical smoke, took a whiff of the smell characteristic of new books, which I hold dear to my heart and, started reading. I finished both books the very same weekend and re-read them assiduously till I knew every spell from ‘Lumos’ to ‘Expelliarmus‘, mapped every corner of Hogwarts that had been revealed to the reader in the books, sketched out all the fascinating magical creatures introduced in the story and analyzed, interpreted and memorized by heart the dialogues of Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore who remains, till date, someone I want to emulate.
The long waits between each new part of the series which were spent re-reading the previous books with attention to detail akin to an artist admiring and deconstructing ‘David’ or ‘The Mona Lisa’; the rush to acquire a copy of the new book as soon as it released – I once begged a family friend to get me a copy of ‘Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire‘ the day it released as he was in Europe even though I barely spoke two words in front of him as I was a quiet child; diligently pre-ordering the books from Amazon and running to open the door every time the doorbell rang; the complete abandonment of everything – tests, assignments, movies and poring over the latest offering penned by J.K. Rowling; spending immemorial hours ‘eruditely discussing’ the plots, sub-plots, characters, pointing out minuscule details, swapping rumors, chastising those who got something wrong – like a spell or an event in the book, taking quizzes, making predictions, arguing and fantasizing about the books and all that they carried with friends and on HPANA (www.hpana.com/)
are just some of the memories I associate with my HP experience.
Every J.K. Rowling interview both, print and broadcast, was scrutinized with concentration that could bend a spoon and anyone making the slightest noise was shushed with a dirty glare in her/his direction. All articles pertaining to Harry Potter were read and re-read and sometimes taken up for discussion in class with other avid Potter fanatics – this led to many heated debates and on more than one occasion, hostility among classmates who disagreed giving way to minor skirmishes which ranged from refusing to lend one a sharpener at a crucial time during a particularly brutal Biology test to vowing to never share one’s lunch with the other as a mark of conscientiousness to not break bread with a rogue Potter fan.
The deepest impact Rowling’s series has had on me is that it has made me ardently value friendship, honesty, and determination bordering on intransigence – to never, ever give up. The most important epiphany the HP series has unraveled for me is that the most powerful propellant in the universe has always been, till date is and, always will be love. Love may seem an innocuous emotion in today’s power hungry world fueled by money – one which is considered to be the stuff of fairy tales and dreams and is put in the same category as gossamer and pixie dust, frequently used as a subliminal thread in mindless rom-coms starring Jennifer (Aniston, Lopez, etc) and further trivialized with lyrics such as ‘Ishak ke naam pe karte, sabhi ab raas leela hai; Main karoon toh saala, Character dheela hai‘ but, it is what sustains humanity, life and all that is good and pure. It is the one emotion that can drive a person insane in the attempt to acquire the source and it can make a pauper a billionaire with the sheer hope and warmth it provides.
Consulo, I believe that J.K. Rowling has indeed written a masterpiece which not only takes the reader to a parallel universe full of jaw-dropping novelty and weaves an incredible fantasy for her/him but, it also links the reader to each character and incident by the power of emotion. Rowling’s attention to detail – she actually has individual files for each and every character which maps out her/his/its family tree, preferences, prospects say, a bio-data of sorts to shape each character with clarity and as distinctly as possible, her imagination when it comes to conjuring names and functions of spells, magical creatures and most importantly the tireless meticulousness to leave no loose ends is perhaps, magic in its own stead.
As the Potter journey comes to an end with the release of the final HP movie, I thank you, Harry Potter, for sharing the wisdom of following your heart and intuition, Hermione Granger, for reasoning when panic sets it and abandoning every logic and supporting your friends in times of need , Ronald Weasley, for being the silent pillar of strength and an over-all kind person who makes mistakes but is brave enough to own up and set things right as soon as he realizes his folly, Draco Malfoy, for turning a corner just shy of becoming rotten to the core by realizing what was most precious was not power but family, Albus Dumbledore, for truly having faith, belief, love, foresight and wisdom, Lord Voldemort, for valiantly trudging along the deep, treacherous and dark paths with cunning and devotional industry applied towards the quest for immortality which was, in retrospect, a poor substitute for a full, healthy life and, my most sincere gratitude to J.K. Rowling for letting her imagination foster, taking a leap of faith, the hard work and the palpable fidelity put into the task of creating, binding and telling the story of a wizard boy and a dark sorcerer and for having the determination to breathe life into this fable which will immortalize Harry Potter, his message and herself, forever.
A word to the wise as I end for now: ‘Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus’