In an age in which children preferred the cartoons on television and the plethora of games which keep rolling out month after month and preferred to stay indoors and spent endless hours in front of the TV and computer rather than go out and play, there came a book from an author hitherto unheard of. It was about a young boy, eleven years old and living with his aunt and uncle because he had lost his parents even before he could recall in a car accident. But soon he finds out that he is no ordinary boy, nor did his parents die in a car accident. He was born to wizard parents, who were murdered by the dark wizard Lord Voldemort, who was gaining power back then. He was about 1 year old then. Then he had tried to kill him… but something happened, something which made the Dark Lord disappear and helped him survive the killing curse. He was the only known survivor of it and he was a celebrity in the wizard world but he had grown up with his aunt and uncle truly knowing the pinch in the life of an orphan. But now it was time for him to return to the wizarding world, to take up his rightful place there and to have his magical education in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. He is Harry Potter. So begins his fantastic journey into the wizarding world, and it is truly in every sense of the word ‘a magical tale’.
This first book ‘Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone’ was released in 1997 and I first read it when I was in 9th standard. Till then I was wandering round reading various hues of Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys Mysteries and truth be told thoroughly enjoying them too. One of my friends recommended it to me. After the first fifty pages I could not put the book down until I had completed it. It was spell binding. It was an altogether different world that the author J.K.Rowling had created. But her craft was so good, it was more than believable. The rare combination of a solid plot, good characters, great settings, brilliant wit and other magical elements meant it was not a book for the children alone. It achieved worldwide appreciation and soon she revealed that there would be 7 books in the series, one for each academic year of the school.
The first four books were pure magic and exceeded expectations on all levels. Each one improved on its predecessor which is a tough ask when you consider the quality of the first book itself. Then she took a break and then published the fifth book ‘The Order Of The Phoenix’. This as some would call it was lackluster and lacked the action packed nature of the previous four. The next one proved to be slightly better and provided some unexpected twists to the story. With the cooling off in the last 2 books, readers feared the 7th book might not fulfill their expectations and provide a deserving completion to the series. Those fears were misplaced and how!!!. In the 7th book she was back in top form and it is now considered one of the best of the series.
The series had a lasting effect on all those who read it I am sure, irrespective of any age barriers. It will continue to enthrall future generations as well and guide them into the world of reading where they will get the opportunity to know joy unbound, feel their hearts broken to pieces and travel the whole world from within the confines of their room. But I feel we were the luckiest of the lot. We were of the same age group as Harry, more or less. We felt the intimidation of going to a new school as he did at that age. We sought for friends as well and found some. There were also some not quite to our taste. We also fought for our houses in our own respective fields. Didn’t we feel the pang of separation from our dear friends during the vacations and the longing to get back to our second home? Weren’t we so self assured we knew that we were right about someone or something. We too had to face grief when we were not ready to understand it nor handle it. Who hasn’t longed for their dear lost ones to come back…Loved some teachers, disliked some. Worshipped some. Seen some girls and felt intrigued. At least once in our lives we have walked in the Valley of Love hand in hand with the one we love, where the flowers are always in full bloom, where it is always bright and sunny and everything perfect and everything seems to be there just for you. Felt anger at being left out, at being cheated upon. Felt the frustration grow when others could not understand how you felt. Felt all the world was against you. Felt the drive to prove yourself and glowed in the praise that showered in. Took out our frustrations on our dear ones, gone back to them and apologized. Wished we could change what has already happened. Wished we could conquer all the evil in the world and make it a better place for all who are in it.
We could relate more to him than readers of other ages who were either too grown up to understand the jump of the heart on stepping foot in a new school with no friends or too young to understand the longing to see a girl or the dark desire for vengeance, to hurt back one who has hurt you. But we felt it all. We felt all the little pulsations that he felt. We cheered with him, understood his frustrations, cried with him and stood steadfast by him. Through all. From the beginning till the end. Till the eleven year old boy who stared out at this new world through wonderstruck eyes grew up to be a young man aware of his responsibilities, aware of his limitations and still wishing he could do all he could to change the world for good. Ready to embrace his destiny and make it his own. Thanks a million Rowling, thanks for the lessons, the morals, the trials…and ultimately for giving us such a friend as Potter (not to forget the Weasleys or Hermione)… You have made our lives richer (not counting in galleons).