Like every kid that grew up in India in the 90s, indoor entertainment was limited to cartoon network and the few “kids shows” on Indian TV such as Fox Kids, Shaktimaan, SonPari and the like. Having never had a taste for animation, I took to the other available source of entertainment for introvert and lazy kids- reading! I read everything from the fairy tales- a set of books I won in nursery school- to Krishna Leela.
And then, in a way that is natural to most kids that read, I advanced on to Enid Blyton. I’m sure she has a huge role to play in many a childhoods. Fatty and his friends, the Secret Seven and the Famous Five were a huge part of my growing up years, lots of their adventures and mysteries are still fresh in my mind. The idea of riding bicycles around the village, being friends with the local sheriff and drinking ginger ale, were concepts alien to me if not for these books!!
The Malory Towers and St.Clare’s series led me to fall in love with the idea of a residential school/ hostel. I was more than happy to be in a hostel, away from home, purely because of the magical world these books had created for me.
These children and their unusually normal lives were the stories that I grew up with. So, when the 12-year-old me heard of a bespectacled boy and his magical world, it didn’t at first excite me. I thought it was weird that people would like stories about witches and broomsticks!
Then one day, I went to the school librarian asking for a new book and she handed me the fattest book she could find in the fiction section. This fat book happened to be Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I took the book home, convinced I wouldn’t read it and would return it in a week. But then I got bored of it lying on my table, and picked it up to sift through the pages. A lot of the story interested me, but I couldn’t make sense of much of it, because I did not have any background. So the next day I went back and asked the librarian for the 1st book of the series. And thus, almost a decade after the book had originally been published, I started reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s stone.
I had finally entered the magical world, and was it amazing!! Yes it did speak about witches and broomsticks but not in the scary, spooky way that I had imagined. Here was a lady who had an almost logical explanation for all the magic she wrote about!! Having started reading the books very late, I was in a mad rush to finish the first six, just in time for the release of Deathly Hallows. And so it was that I regularly visited the library, finished the books on weekdays, and watched the movies on POGO over the weekends.
Harry, Ron, Hermione and the rest took me through a journey of this magical world that was unreal, yet believable. They had fire spitting dragons, trolls and giants, but they also had nosy caretakers, arrogant prefects and pending homework. These were after all stories of normal school going children, with problems only slightly bigger than my own!!
As is the case with most things, the more you delve into a subject, the more obsesses you get with it. And in case of Harry Potter, there is just so much information, trivia, fanfiction and merchandise available, that you have no choice but to stay in love with the series forever!!
Although I haven’t really grown up with harry and his friends, I do feel like I have known them forever and so I do not miss any opportunity of proving my love and loyalty for them, be it reading up fanfiction, subscribing to Pottermore or participating in Harry Potter quizzes. When I was recently in London, the first place on my bucket list was the Warner Bros. Studio Tour. I had my tickets for the tour much before I had my travel tickets in place!! (https://www.wbstudiotour.co.uk/)
The studio is paradise for any potterhead, from the sets of privet drive and great hall, to the Knight Bus and all of the cast’s costumes, the place has everything on display. There’s also the contraptions that comprise the entire kitchen at the burrow, knitting, dishwashing, the clock, everything! They even give you a flying experience, some delicious butterbeer, a wand that suits you best and tons and tons of merchandise to choose from! I myself made away with a time turner, bertie botts every flavored beans, a wand and lots and lots of postcards, to tell everyone I had been there 😛
They might sound childish, but is perfectly normal and acceptable for a 25 year old to spend extravagantly on these!! And that is the true magic of Harry Potter. You never grow out of it; at no point will you suddenly realize it is all too childish, because it’s not. It’s a story of children who grow up, and as they do, their problems change from mother’s Christmas knitting to prom dates (ok Yule Ball) to career choices!
We all know a Ron, a slightly goofy but furiously loyal friend. There’s also always a Hermione, the one that does all the homework, makes sure people go to classes and basically mothers the group! We also have our own Nevilles, Lunas, Ginnys, even Dracos. However, I can’t say the same about Harry. I have hardly come across a person and felt, OMG he’s like Harry Potter. That’s because there is nothing that stands out about Harry. Ron has his goofiness, the twins have pranks, Neville is scared, Luna is lost and Hermione is Bossy. But there is not one such characteristic that defines Harry, sure he’s brave, but so are the rest of them. And that is what is weird and special about the series, the Protagonist has absolutely nothing that should make him the hero, it’s just the circumstances, and the people around him.
Every time you read the books, you’ll find something new that you had missed the last time. A piece of the jigsaw that will help you see the bigger picture tiny bit clearer. And yet again you will be amazed at the sheer genius of J K Rowling, of how she has sewn everything together, how nothing is out of place, how every move, trait or action right from the first book till the last lead to the one big climax. And while doing that, she has stuck to the one thing that she truly believes in, that love heals all.
And that is why, when I am reading Harry Potter to my grandkids, 70 years from now, and they ask me:
“After All This Time?”