There’s something undeniably nostalgic about the release of a new Harry Potter story. It’s almost ten years since a fresh Hogwarts story hit the shelves, and this time around the generation who grew up with Potter are, like him, well into adulthood. So as a new generation gets into the swing of Potter-mania and midnight parties, we speak to some Bengalureans about their memories of how things were the first time around.
I remember the final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows releasing in July 2007. At that time there was a large Crossword Bookstore on Residency Road, which had promised to open at 6am so that eager fans could get their hands on copies as soon as it was released. I’d just bought a new bicycle, and at that time there was no traffic, so I cycled there all the way from Cooke Town, arriving at about 5am. I hadn’t cycled in years, so that itself felt a bit like being a child again. When I got there, there was a crowd of children, but I was the only adult waiting in line for a copy. In fact, a TV crew who were covering the event asked me to step out of the line so that I didn’t interrupt their shots of the eager children! After that, I felt a bit bad about regaining my place, so I let quite a few youngsters in front of me.
I started reading the books when I was 12 (the summer of 1999 – which makes me the same age as Harry!) and haven’t stopped since. I really don’t know what it says about me that I’ve been reading the same books over and over again for the last 17 years. I’m pretty sure I can recite a lot of them from memory. Doesn’t stop me rereading them though!
I have oddly fond memories of standing in long queues at ungodly hours of the morning to get the latest book. The last one was a very memorably read in the general compartment of a train from Bombay to Pune (no mean feat considering I was standing for the entire 4 hours in an incredibly crowded train!). This was meant to be a trip to visit my boyfriend but I started reading as soon as I got on the train, continued reading while I waited for him to pick me up from the station, then spent half the day at his house finishing the book. He then started reading the book, and by the time he finished it was time for me to return to Bombay!
Growing up in Bangalore, I came to the Harry Potter books later than some. But I think I’ve made up for that since, in terms of sheer enthusiasm! My introduction to Potter came when I was in the 5th standard and watched The Prisoner of Azkaban film, after which I was hooked! I went back and watched the first two movies and then started reading The Philosopher’s Stone around the same time as the release of the sixth book. By the time the final book was out, I had read all the others.
Subsequently, while studying law at Jindal Global University, I’ve done an elective paper on Harry Potter and the Power of the Imagination. This course, taught by Professor Rashmi Raman, delved into the philosophical ambits of Harry’s universe, and acted as an impetus for me to enter Harry Potter scholarship – I’ve begun reading and writing on various critical perspectives of life based on the Potter series. It seems like I just went from one kind of a fanatic to an entirely different kind!
I really couldn’t understand what the fuss was about. Newspapers were writing articles about some boy wizard and even my second hand bookstore was stocking copies of the Harry Potter books. I couldn’t help but be curious. So one day, while looking for a copy of The English Patient for our creative writing class, I also ended up buying Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
I of course didn’t know it was the third in the series. That’s all my bookshop guy had. I surreptitiously read the book at home and in the train to college (I was fresh out of college and pursuing a diploma in communication and media in Mumbai). To my utter bewilderment, I was loving reading a children’s book! My sister teased me mercilessly, and I fibbed and said that our creative writing teacher had recommended this as a part of our class, because there was so much to learn about the nuances of writing from it. I wasn’t lying about that part at least.
It’s been 15 years since then and I am a certified Potter head. I have woken up early to get my Potter books, made virtual Hogwarts in my head, and fallen in love with the magic, since then.
I still remember reading my first harry potter book when visiting my parents, who were living in London, during a college break. My younger brother had a copy of the first book, and I stole that from him, sat under a tree in my parents’ backyard, and was absolutely riveted. And over the course of the next few books, became a die-hard fan.
Back in college, there was a popular local band who would come and play at college. They were called Harry and the Potters and sang songs inspired by episodes in the book. One extremely popular song was Rock the Library – and because my college, Mount Holyoke, was an extremely studious one where the library was the most exciting and busy place on campus – this became a campus hit. Another very popular song was “You can’t stop Lord Voldemort,” but my own personal favourite was Save Ginny (Weasley). I had t-shirts for each of these songs, and these t-shirts were among my most prized possessions, until they were lost – I believe that an unscrupulous dhobi-wallah stole all of them.
Afsha Khan Jayapal
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was the last book my sister and I shared before she moved away from home.It was also the cause of the biggest fight we ever had in a history already fraught with sibling rivalry. It was so bad, in fact, that my parents were forced to jump in and tear their two teenagers apart before we tore each other to shreds.
I remember that week quite clearly. The book had just been released and my sister and I were taking it in turns to read it. We each got it for an hour at a time before we had to pass it on to the other. When my sister left to meet a few friends one evening, I decided to take it out for a spin on my own, while I met with friends in the background.
I came home to grim parents and a seething sibling smoking at the ears. “How could you… you cheat!” My parents sat silently, shaking their heads at me.It was so unfair! Why couldn’t I take it out with me while she was off gallivanting? So what if she didn’t get to read it the instant she returned? Why did we have to share one stupid copy, anyway? We could totally afford to buy two!
I would eventually inherit our old Harry Potter series as my sister bought herself a new set. But as I look back on that week in 2003, I feel a tug at my heartstrings because the Order of the Phoenix was the last book my sister and I read together TOGETHER. Today, we both get our own copies of books by default, but we still long for the good old days when tempers flew and hair was shredded, but sharing a book made us appreciate the world of words so much more.
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