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Sunday, 17 July 2011

A tribute to JK Rowling, and Harry Potter

The year 2000.

I still remember that day, when my father presented to me a paperback version of a certain book called 'Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets'. I also remember, how after reading through the first few pages (the first chapter was called The Worst Birthday, I recollect ) I had closed the book and kept it somewhere and ... well, yes, had stopped reading it. It made no sense to me. It seemed all too imaginary and hocus-pocus for me after the fairly more realistic and less-fantastical Enid Blytons and Tintins, that had been my constant companions and sleeping partners for the past few years. (yes, don't you raise eyebrows now. flying chairs and gnomes and pixies were less fantastical than a jet of green light that killed people, or so I felt back then)

Now, however, when I look back on that day, I can only have a good laugh at the thing that was me twelve years back.


Yesterday marked the end of that era of my life that had begun on that day in the year 2000. An era that had begun in utter distaste, an era that had grown to become an inseparable part of my childhood and teenage years and an era that I feel blessed enough to have lived through.

There have been sagas and chronicles before, in English literature, as well as in English cinema. The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, The Pirates of the Caribbean, et al. Some of them are even, better than Harry Potter, I would dare say, from an absolute scale of reference.

But something set Harry Potter apart, right from its conception. Something made the child wizard connect with us. Something about Harry Potter, about Hogwarts, about Ron Weasley, about Hermione Granger, about Albus Dumbledore, about the rest of the Wizarding community. Reached within us. Identified with us. Something that Luke Skywalker and Obi Wan Kenobi, and Princess Leia couldn't do. Something that Frodo, Gandalf and Bilbo Baggins couldn't do either.

I guess, one factor that made it special was how the story of Harry's life unfolded with that of our own. It was as if Harry Potter was one of us. He was eleven years old when the story began. We were of a similar age too, when we started reading the books. His schooling went alongside our own. He matured with us. 

This was something that neither Luke Skywalker, nor Frodo could do, for absolutely no fault of their's, mind you.

Was it just this?

Hell no. Harry Potter reached out to an audience far expansive than just children of a particular age group. It appealed to the young, and to the old. To the housewife, and to the college goer. To the busy corporate, and to the archaic grey haired armchair stereotype.

Why was this then? Was it the story? Was it J K Rowling's mastery with the pen? I guess we'll never know. Also, it doesn't matter much, even if we do. It definitely wasn't the finest literary work ever. But then again, it was far superior from being just another work of literature, or so I feel. It was a new world that J K Rowling created, that merged seamlessly with the world of our own. A world that stared at us from the 4000+ pages of print. A world that drew us in, like a vortex, in a manner that no other fantastical world had ever drawn us before. And a world that left not one stone of doubt unturned and not one loose end before it dropped us back to reality.

Yesterday, as I sat through the final installment of the epic series, I cried like a little boy. The wilderness of feelings that gushed through my mind; through my self; through my body. Seemed choked by the sheer constipation of my ability to express them. I scarcely have felt more emotionally tugged before. As scene after scene rolled past in front of my eyes, all I could do was sit and stare, stunned to the very core.

To quote a certain review. The movie was "monumental cinema". It  had everything that one would want. Nothing more, nothing less. It invoked every little bit of every possible feeling that one can muster. The sorrow that stuns you when you see Dobby's grave; The rush of adrenaline when the Hungarian Ironbelly breathes fire right at you; The overpowering sense of elation when Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts; The revelation of Snape's past, and his unconditional love for Lily Potter that blows your mind; The outburst of reverance when Minerva McGongall steps forward in the Great Hall. Oh man, this list goes on. The surge of new found respect for Neville Longbottom when he confronts Voldemort; The sheer finesse of Molly Weasley when she finishes off Bellatrix Lestrange, shouting, "Not my daughter, you bitch!" And the final flourish of triumph when Harry Potter "resurrects" himself and ... the final duel ... and the epic expression on Voldemort's face when he realizes that his wand is no longer under his control.

The movie has it all. It reaches deep within your soul; reaches places you don't know exist, and scours for every iota of feeling, and hunts them down. Personally, it is as if, someone had dipped me in liquid nitrogen and then hit me with a sledgehammer. Yes. That was the feeling. An inexplicable mishmash of wonder, shock, sorrow, and jubilance, (thought I doubt being hit by a sledgehammer while frozen makes you jubilant, but you get it, right?) It is something that no one can do justice by writing about. Needs to be experienced. First hand.

I really have nothing more to say about Harry Potter. I've been one of the millions who have stuck with Harry right from the beginning, till the very end, and I'm proud that I have.

And is this the end? Definitely not. The story may have ended, but the spirit of Harry Potter lives on. The voice of Dumbledore "Help shall always be give at Hogwarts to those who ask for it" and his reassuring smile; the undying spirit of Fred Weasley. The bravery and awe-inspiring courage of every Auror who sacrificed his life. The spirit of Sirius "Padfoot" Black. The character of Severus Snape, "the bravest man of them all". And Neville Longbottom. For being the ideal Gryffindor. In spirit and in action.

I should end this now, lest I get more emotional. I can only thank Ms Rowling for everything. It's been one helluva ride. And we've enjoyed every second on it.

To you J K. We all owe you one.

a collage of some of the posters featuring most of the major characters. (click to enlarge and see in greater detail)


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