It’s lying right there.
The person who bought the book has finished reading it. She had mixed, but mostly positive reviews of the book.
It’s lying there, and I could pick it up and finish it once and for all. The entire series, as declared by Ms. Rowling herself, is done and dusted after this. There will be no more speculation, no more additions. No The Return of Harry Potter, or Harry Potter Strikes Back. The entire universe will now be nailed and put up for history to discover, observe, and critique. There will be no more additions, alterations, or explanations.
For those who grew up in the 90s, it was a decade of memories but little else. The 70s had rock music, gaanja, and the hippie universe. Our parents in the 80s experienced the first middle-class revolution that followed a path that would be laid out for decades later – ‘Study, get job, settle’.
In the 90s, there were a number of external factors at play. The liberalisation and the impact it was having on our lives in whatever ways that it was. The nature of the country changing quickly, adapting to changes while adhering to morals from a different time.
Even though ScoopWhoop and its brethren would have you believe that a lot of interesting stuff was happening, it really wasn’t. Everything around us in the public view was rather ordinary.
Politics was a weird game of Musical Chairs (with the Prime Minister changing 7 times in 10 years!), sports held no great rewards either. Pakistan was beating India consistently, and the only time one saw hockey sticks was when the villain’s henchmen would bring them along for fights. That Mithun, Govinda and Jackie Shroff were among the top stars must tell you the quality of films. So there wasn’t a lot that was good. The good stuff was passed on, or given to us, or handed down, or spoken about.
We had a lot of ‘new’. But not a lot of ‘great’.
If the generation that grew up in the 90s could further be divided into two halves, I’d belong in the second half. The first five years in the 90s flew by like a blur, there’s not much I remember from the time. But the latter half of the 90s is when I first discovered my own consciousness. There was a lot of new, but not a lot of great.
Which is why when you ask someone who grew up around the Harry Potter books what the books mean, it is hard to describe.
If you asked me too, for example, it’d be hard. I wasn’t all that young when I read the first book. I must have been in 9th standard, and came across a junior reading the books. Like a surprising number of people I know, I started the series with the 3rd book. The next few months were spent in running after the rest of the books.
The books themselves, like the Golden Snitch, played with Seekers like us. I’d find someone reading the book in a corridor, request him to give it to me; only to have the book disappear and appear with somebody else. The book was read on the sly since my school encouraged reading of only one kind – the kind that took you closer to God.
Which meant that reading the books was a way to slip into a hidden world of my own. At the risk of sounding rather preposterous and judgmental, I’d humbly like to state that the Harry Potter series is probably the last great fictional book series that will see a global craze among children again. I’d gladly be proven wrong, but I doubt it.
The Harry Potter books came out just before the boom of the Internet and mobile technology, and with Pokemon Go and Pick-a-Chu and all that shit, I doubt books will ever enjoy the sort of reception that this series did.
In a way, I have never been able to outgrow the Harry Potter books. All the books I’ve written (but haven’t been published – Rowling has made literary failure magical too!) are basically a rehash of the Harry Potter trajectory. Strip them all of their settings, the characters, and the facades, and they’re all journeys into magical lands.
I have tried rereading the books a lot of times. I have begun with Book 3, and sometimes with Book 1. There have been times when I directly jumped to the Quidditch World Cup in Book 4 – but it was never the same.
If you ask people who grew up reading Harry Potter what they loved about the series, very few would say it was the actual story. Most old-timers like myself would be fudgy about the stories. It wasn’t the stories.
It was the world.
Harry Potter was what we did before we discovered drugs. Before the magical powers of Marijuana and LSD were bestowed upon us, we all got high on Harry Potter. We took little potions, and then large portions. And we taught ourselves to enjoy the high. We stayed up at nights, or lied to our parents, and joined friends, and sat down, and got high.
Every time I tried to reread the books, there was something missing. I was undergoing a classic case of ‘chasing the dragon’, and it has been proven futile, always a shadow of the first trip – the robes and the jewelry intact, but no flesh and bones underneath.
When I finished reading the 7th book, I spent a lot of time thinking about it. Thinking of how I was going to miss these guys, miss their universe. I remember a gutting sadness, the kind that sank into the pit of my stomach when summer holidays came to an end. Or when I was called to the Principal’s Office.
Years later, I still knocked on the doors of Diagon Alley when I needed help. When I ran out of ideas, or I got bogged down by the weight of what I was writing. Whenever I felt trapped inside the comparatively insipid world I had created, I hopped on to Diagon Alley for a break. But I was only a visitor. My membership had long run out, as I knew the course of events that would take place in that universe.
It was one of those things you live with – a little sadness that has become a part of your life. Like losing a tooth, a pet that has passed away, or realising you blew away the most beautiful relationship of your life.
I had come to terms with the fact that the Harry Potter trip was done. I could go back once in a while, but had to return quickly.
Until there began news of a new book.
Of course it wasn’t the same.
Firstly, JK Rowling wasn’t writing it herself. Like going to Bangkok with your parents, a great place is not the same without the right kind of people.
There were also the mixed reviews that the book received.
Back when JK Rowling released the original books, there weren’t so much reviews of the books, just levels of appreciation from everybody in the universe. I don’t remember a single friend/acquaintance/relative saying, ‘Yaar, this book was just about OK, yaar. Theek-thaak’.
Probably because it was a given that the books were brilliant. Probably because nobody really cared how good the book really was. They were on all their own trips, waiting to go further, to the next level.
But with this book, there are reviews. People speak about plot-holes, and conflicting character expansions. It is not really the 8th book in the series in the real sense, some of them say. And I know that.
But what the heck! It IS a Harry Potter book. The guide might not be the same, but it is the universe she created.
The book is lying right here on the table.
I keep staring at it, almost as if I expect it to rise up, and do something.
I think the book knows I’m going to read it, after all. A final trip to the universe; to my first drug.
A final ride on a magical train, and then like Rowling herself said, there’ll be no more.
I plan to roll a joint now. And begin reading the book. And when it is done and dusted, I will get along with life.
Growing old, looking at past writings, dying. That sort of thing.