It was 21 years ago that the magical world of Harry Potter and Co. entered our lives. In other words, it has been 21 years since muggle readers befriended the mystical wizards of J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter, the boy with the scar, was quick to woo readers and even two decades later, the book series of the Chosen One and his buddies are still the favourite of kids and adults world over. No Potterhead (Harry Potter fan) can forget the dater July 31 – it’s the birth date of Harry and incidentally, the author of the series J.K. Rowling.
Lakhs of children grew up falling in love with the fictional enchanting world of wizardry, awaiting that yet-to-arrive acceptance letter from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. For adults, it was more than a fantasy tale; the Harry Potter series is a political read too, discussing racism, bigotry, totalitarianism, minority politics, etc. The seven books were later made into a movie series, which became equally popular.
On Harry’s birthday, a few of those 90s kids who grew up into adults imbibing the compassion and values of the iconic characters, share their lovely memories of Harry’s world.
Subbaraman, a self-confessed Potterhead, started with The Chamber of Secrets some 17 years back and got hooked to it. “It was exam time and after finishing it, I turned to The Prisoner of Azkaban and read it in one sitting without even bothering about my exams the next day,” recalls the techie, who read the final book at his office, which he didn’t leave the whole weekend to avoid being disturbed!
So crazy a Potterhead Subbaraman is that he created a photoblog of his Harry Potter trail over his year-long stint at Edinburg as part of his job. “Every year, I read the books at least once; it keeps me grounded and re-establishes my belief in love, magic and the goodness in people. It reminds me of choosing right and not choosing what’s easy,” admits the Palakkad native, who quotes his favourite Dumbledore in almost all conversations.
Harry, to him, is a friend everyone loves. “He is faulty, grey and is not the quintessential hero, but his victory is the result of his genuine affection for friends,” he says.
Thirty-year-old Arathi Variar was just 11 when she first read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. “It was just another book when I started but soon, I was under the magical spell of Harry. I literally grew up with Harry as we were of the same age. He was more of a friend to me. I used to fantasise that we were classmates in Hogwarts,” says the software engineer, who, like many, had been waiting for her Hogwarts letter.
What makes Harry and his friends dear to the fans is that they simply taught them about unity during crisis, compassion, love, the importance of family and finding magic in life if you look for it.
Dolly agrees, recalling that during school days, she used to write her surname as Potter, “It is more than a children’s book. It has the power to teach everyone about the fight we have to put up with in life, love and loss. By the end of the seventh book, we lose a few most-loved characters and that’s when we realise that Harry is not the hero after all and he was forced into being the hero, the Chosen One, despite not wanting any of the attention. It’s the rest of the characters who become the heroes,” she says.
Short filmmaker Arjun V. says Harry Potter has been a great motivator for him. “As a child, I used to make wands and cast spells against my brother! It’s from Harry that I learned to never back down in the face of a challenge. Fight till the end, even though there is zero per cent chance of winning,” says Arjun, who is in awe of the hidden twists the reveal at the end. He adds, “For me, the strongest character in the book is Professor Snape. Always.”
An ardent fan of Albus Dumbledore, who believes that certain channels of communication should always remain open, Kochi-based Hrishikesh Bhaskaran, a free software enthusiast and internet freedom activist, identifies with his politics. “The series has been my stress-buster for long,” says the Potterhead since class VII. The book is very much part of his life for several reasons. “My fondest memory about Harry Potter is that my wife gifted me the full book set at our marriage,” says the bibliophile, whom the series has been a political guide about fight for equal rights.
Deepa Antony, a freelance journalist in Kochi, found Harry Potter at a particularly stressful period of life. “I was dealing with the loss of a parent and here was an 11-year-old orphan who was dealing with a whole new world all by himself. I related to him in dealing with loss and trying to move on with a positive source of inspiration. To me, it is a story of friendship, love and the fight to survival against all odds. The tedious wait for each new book, the rumours about details in the next book, the numerous discussions with friends about the story — these are only some of the things I shall remember from the years of growing up with Rowling’s Potter books.”
No matter if Harry turns 38 or even 380, he will always remain the adorable, innocent little boy, who fought and won over the evilest wizard of all times, armed with righteousness, courage and friendship.