It seems very, very long ago that I came across a book review in Deccan Herald’s weekly supplement for children, Open Sesame. This one was about a “story about magic, with a difference”. It talked about a boy having an oppressed existence with his aunt and uncle, and then being told he’s a wizard, following which he goes off to magic school, battles the villain who was responsible for killing his parents… and leaving the ending open for a sequel.
I, who normally gave short shrift to books reviewed in Open Sesame as being for an unimaginative bunch of little kids whose knowledge of literature rarely stretched beyond Fairy Stories written by authors of little or no reputation, apart from the occasional Enid Blyton, was sort of impressed. I don’t quite remember why; the storyline seemed awfully cliched and the review wasn’t such a great piece of writing anyway.
But I ended up with Prisoner of Azkaban on my thirteenth birthday [we at home have this thing about gifting books to each other, more so since all of my generation are bibliophiles. So right from my first birthday, I’ve always got books, coloring books, pens, paints, or some such thing from those at home apart from the usual thisNthat], and got hooked, and couldn’t stop gushing about the wonder that was JK Rowling.
Funnily by now, hardly anyone had heard of the wonderful world of wizardry at school, and they all dismissed it as some “fairy story”. Little did they know that fairies are one of the most half-witted magical creatures!
But the Sunday Times of India put it on the front page of their Sunday supplement once, and there you go! The phenomenon began. At first, a few bibliophiles like me started reading the books, made it conversation-filler material amongst ourselves… and all of a sudden, the corridors were echoing with talk of Basilisks, Animagi, loathing Snape, comparisons of McGonagall to our martinet-ish Principal….
Things only hotted up even more when the first movie was released, after which the buzz behind Goblet of Fire led to whispered conversations at the back of the school assembly about whether the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher would be a vampire as Dean Thomas predicted.
Winter break 1998. Yay! I finally got GoF. It’ll keep me company as we walk along the esplanade in Pondicherry… Oh, Darn! The city’s just too beautiful to see! Result: It took me four days to finish the book, and that too, I couldn’t spare more than just cursory glances at some chapters. But retribution took the form of spending New Year’s at an uncle’s place, sans TV. So I ended up reading the book again and again until I could quote it offhand, and my uncle ended up another Pottermaniac.
Well, it really had caught on. The mania still haunts the old gang from school. We just have to get started on Potter and we go on for hours on end. Just like HP-fans everywhere.
OoTP in class XII. Exams the week after. And I just had a couple of days to finish Dee’s copy. I had never been so maniacal about finishing a book before. Finished it off in a day. Hated it. I rather thought the Department of Mysteries bit towards the end was grossly overdone, at best. It had gone beyond all fantasy tales, IMHO. I was going to write off JK as just another woman whose fame had gone to her head and affected her work. Most people agreed. But when I said so to my friend who was the Grandfather of all Pottermaniacs, it was met with nothing but uncomprehension, surprise and an admonishment to “Go read it again, see what you’ve missed” and also a detailed analysis of why the Fifth book doesn’t deserve all the insults I heaped on it. I did, and discovered that my friend was right. The book shows a transition to a darker, more serious tone, setting the stage for the sixth and seventh books.
And… sixth book… that was when I was just a year at NITK, and when I’d found the place to be replete with dozens of Harry-lovers, some Snape-lovers, many Snape-haters, and the like. I was really maniacal about Harry Potter, as can be seen by my posts in the run-up to the release. The book cost a bomb, which IMHO was simply cashing in on the publicity, and I staunchly resolved “not to succumb to consumerism” and all of that idealism that was doing the rounds in my head back then. The ebook links my friends were giving me didn’t seem to be working, and I took it upon myself one fine morning to Find An Ebook In Less Than Three Hours Or Let My Internet Connection Perish In The Attempt. Sheer hell, it turned out to be, dodging the various links to buying it on Amazon, various links that talked of some eBook site bringing it out in eBook form, so many links that had the Chinese fake version that had caused some famous controversy that merited a million webpages dedicated to it alone, and most of all, the dead links. So it was on the eighteenth or nineteenth page of Ask.com [It was the first time Google had failed me] where I found this excellent site where the full text could be downloaded. Quickly converted it to PDF for ease of reading [I hate reading Word docs], and sat through it and finished it in six hours straight [Oh, my poor aching eyes 😦 ]
And now The Deathly Hallows. I don’t have any real expectations regarding it, it surely will be good, JK would want it to be worth the obnoxious amount her fans will be paying for the book, she would want to give everyone’s favourite hero a good sendoff. And she definitely won’t quit writing; she’s far too good for that. Her visual style is what keeps sending chills down our spines, makes us skim through the pages again and again hoping for a clue to what comes next. I also am not thinking of ANY ideas regarding what is to come. Harry lives/dies, Ron lives/dies, Ginny lives/dies, Hermione lives/dies…. I don’t much care. I’m waiting to be surprised, to be telling myself I should have seen it coming, and finally coming to terms with it and saying
“It’s perfect this way… the whole world is happy, kids haven’t quit reading [they’ve come back to it, actually,], Rowling’s rich, and I’ve been entertained for the past seven years, and I don’t have to worry about how to start conversations for the next few months”.
Oh, and any offers of the eBook [no, not the “leaked” one, it’s utter garbage] or of the book are absolutely welcome.
Addendum: I got the ebook of HP7 two days in advance. A really “leaked” copy. Haven’t read it yet, but mean to do so soon. I can’t upload it here as it is 70 MB zipped. Those on NITK LAN can find it there, but others with hopefully better Net speeds can get it on http://avaxhome.org. Just search for deathly hallows. And the file is an encrypted .rar file, you’ll need the password given in the download page to decrypt it.
Addendum 2: Some kindly soul typed out the entire book. Managed to read it one day before it released. Many thanks to The Monk for the book from us Numbskulls. So far, I’ll say it’s a good one, though the soppy last chapter is quite a damper. Review coming later.