Wednesday, June 30, 2010

For the People who Read

(Written a few days after the final book released)

Note: For those who have not yet read and are planning to read either the Harry Potter series or “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”, my sincere advice would be to discontinue reading this article. Reduction in my readership, though it might be, this statutory warning comes from a sincere HP-fan who earnestly does not wish to deny other fellow fans the pleasure of cherishing the climax of the series.

Ultimately, The Boy Who Lived did live, and live did he? Pulling down the curtains on an epic masterpiece with “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”, J.K.Rowling does, indeed manage to leave us happy, sad, angry, miserable, confused, satisfied and not-at-all-satisfied…all at the same time. Never for once did I imagine experiencing this heart-wrenching feeling, given that Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Neville, et al continue to live, at the end of the series. I am not a particularly good reader, but I think I can state, with sufficient backing available, that Harry Potter is one epic fantasy that would go down in history as a must-read belonging to the beginning of the 21st century. And now, as I write these words after having just completed reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, there is a seemingly empty feeling in my stomach, as in millions of others. Harry, Ron, Hermione and the others will continue to live peacefully in the Wizarding world (Godric’s Hollow, hopefully). Just that we Muggles will not get to glimpse what The Chosen One would be choosing to do. It does indeed seem frightening to think there will be no more adventures of Harry Potter, well, possibly an encyclopedia, as Rowling hinted, but there is no more Voldemort to conquer, no horcruxes to destroy, no Ginny’s to be won over, no Ron-Hermione’s to indulge in friendship or patch-up with, no Firebolt to fly on, ……..Such has been the effect of the boy wizard’s adventures that kids have grown up idolizing Harry Potter as their hero, more than any other living person. Indeed, why not? After having been a presumptuous vocal critic of Rowling and the Harry Potter books until early 2003, the movie and my best friend were what prompted me to take to reading the book, add to it some curiosity mixed with the chance to scorn more. How wrong I was! I don’t know if the skepticism I had while reading the book helped me like the book more, but somehow, at the end of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on The Chamber of Secrets.

Yes, there are those oh-that’s-fantasy-nonsense sayers about the book, but the way Rowling has so intricately woven fantasy with the deepest and truest of human emotions is what makes the book such a kill. That the Harry Potter books portray as much as or more than (often unimaginable) magic, such human feelings, emotions, virtues – of love, courage, honesty, integrity, betrayal, greed, arrogance and human fallibility, are what endear the book to any reader. No wonder then, that this book, intended to be for children, ended up being read by people of all age-groups, across continents, breaking all sorts of barriers – religious, cultural, linguistic, and what not!

Rowling depicts characters we see everyday, and those that we yearn to see in a lifetime. Another standout aspect of Rowling is the amazing attention she gives to the minutest of details, and she has proved, throughout the entire series, time and again, how essential it is to take in every single word, punctuation and expression that is so sublimely conveyed in the books – be it the casual mention of Hagrid dropping Harry when he was one year old in Sirius’ borrowed bike or Harry’s notion that Snape was able to read his mind or Ron preventing Harry and Hermione from uttering Lord Voldemort’s name when they were camping in the forest. But over and above all, it was the saga of love and friendship that struck me the most, interspersed with actions of sheer daring, bravery, comic timing, not to forget intellectual brilliance (Oh, I love you Hermione!). For me, the most touching love story in the series was the one between Snape and Lily Evans, well, the one-sided love, at least. And the journey through Snape’s memory in the end really moves you to tears. Of course, I never ever professed any love for Snape, but towards the end of book 6, it seemed sort of obvious to me that Snape was on the good side, my hypothesis being bolstered by his murder of Dumbledore. Well, the above statement might seem terrifically nutty in any general context, but having read 6 of her books with avid interest, you would essentially see logic in the above statement, in light of Rowling being the author in question. Of course, it goes unsaid that the Harry-Hermione-Ron camaraderie takes the cake as far as “friendship” is concerned. As for a mentor-protégé relationship, I think there was only one such instance that moved us – that of Albus Dumbledore and Harry. Though the Harry-Ginny relationship was riveting and invigorating at certain moments, for instance, both the impulsive kisses were pretty intense and made you “feel” (not the physical kiss [:P], something more like the love they had), the fact that Ginny had made out with quite a few guys before Harry (Michael Corner and Dean Thomas), and Harry too had had his share of teenage crush on Cho Chang, the essence of the relationship never stuck, unlike the Ron-Hermione one which, despite Ron’s outwardly intense, deliberate and dispassionate fling with Lavender Brown and Hermione’s supposedly so-called affair with Viktor Krum, always had an undercurrent and was persistent, albeit not outwardly, for quite some time; and ended up being really cute and more satisfying than the Harry-Ginny union. Anyways, what everyone had been looking forward to in the Finale (among other things, of course) was the Harry – Voldemort (No You-Know-Who for me ;) showdown, which, some people felt, turned out to be a rather damp squib. I, for one, felt that the final fight and Voldemort’s eventual destruction could not have been better portrayed, because it took place in Hogwarts, their home (as well as Dumbledore’s), and took place in full view of everyone that mattered in the wizarding world. The conversation between Harry and Voldemort was really enthralling, and, as Dumbledore has been saying all this while, Voldemort’s eventual destruction at Harry’s hands would be due to the former’s ignorance and lack of wisdom, as much as the latter’s qualities that made him a Gryffindor – sheer courage, selflessness and concern for his peoples. It would have been absurd to expect a battle of magical prowess and wizarding talent between one of the most supremely magically talented wizards of all time – Voldemort and a seventeen-year-old boy, The Chosen One, though he may be. In view of this, I feel Rowling did indeed pull it off, Harry’s bravery and sense of purpose seeing him through.
Among the various deaths in the book, Dobby’s was most moving in that we went through a heroic rescue act by him terminating in his faithful final words, “Harry ….. Potter.” But of all the characters who died, I think none, not even Sirius or Dumbledore, would be missed as much as Fred Weasley. For some reason, Rowling has always mentioned more of Fred than George; though it is evident both are equally witty and mischievous. But somehow, these two characters are unbeatable, and their wisecracks are an ultimate riot, what with their timing, intonation and moments of light-heartedness during periods of difficulty. Miss you Fred! As for duels and deaths on the Dark Side, nothing was more unexpected, astonishing and satisfying than the one between Bellatrix Lestrange and Molly Weasley. Wow, what a duel! Especially the way Molly entered the fight, swearing at Bellatrix and plunging straight into the fight was awesome! Way to go Molly! Talking about Wizarding duels, one of my friends asked me to rank the wizards in the order of their skill/intelligence/knowledge –

Dumbledore > Voldemort > Grindelwald > {Snape, James, Sirius, Kingsley} > Bellatrix’ is what I came up with. Yes, despite all revelations of Dumbledore’s ‘other’ side, Harry Potter though I may not be, I would still remain Dumbledore’s boy. Accepted that Voldemort ventured to do far more things than Dumbledore ever did, but Dumbledore’s knowledge and wisdom outmatches Voldemort’s skills. Somehow, I liked Gellert Grindelwald towards the end, especially the way he spoke to Voldemort when he was approached about the Elder Wand. In the end, this epic saga revolved around the life of one man, his intense faithful love despite knowing its failure, and how he endured a life of lies and hatred, not to mention persistent mortal danger. Severus Snape showed us how to be a man, and Dumbledore’s persistent reiteration of the importance of “love” can be attributed to two people – ‘Professor’ Snape’s love for Lily (Evans-->Potter) and Harry’s love for his friends & fellow beings. These two reasons stood out, above all, among all the eventual causes leading to Voldemort’s downfall. The tale of Harry Potter has an epic touch too. I was pleasantly reminded of the story of Lord Krishna, wherein King Kamsa, His maternal uncle, set out to kill Him ever since he heard the prophecy that his (Kamsa’s) destruction would be at Lord Krishna’s hands. Also, the adventures of Harry, Hermione and, to some extent, Ron, in the forest, reminded me of the Ramayana, and especially the part where Harry is enticed by the doe was so like the deer enticing Goddess Sita in the epic. (Do pardon me if any of these comparisons seemed absurd.)

As I walk back to the Library to return “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” today, I cannot help feeling sad, despite my attempts at being practical. But then, we have an epic saga in the form of 7 unmistakable jewels among us – fantasy, though it might be, the tale of Harry Potter that Joanne Rowling (Kathleen is not part of her actual name) created has unmistakably found a place in the heart of millions all over the world, for a plethora of reasons, not least for the inherent humaneness incorporated in unreal fantasy.
Harry Potter shall continue to live in the minds of its readers for quite some time to come.
Rowling, we bow down to thee.
Thank you, for Harry Potter.
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