Saturday, May 30, 2009

Spellbound: How It All Started

April 2002.
It was almost the last week of our vacation in Dubai. We were staying at my aunt's place and on the particular weekday afternoon that this story begins, my uncle was at work, the older of my two cousins was at school, my parents were off browsing kitchen appliances or something, and since at 18, I didn't give a damn about cooking, I was stuck at home with my sister and the younger cousin running amok, and my aunt who was escaping for her siesta.

I had already emailed & chatted with my friends back in Bombay, the younger kids were getting on my nerves, there was nothing good on TV and what I was desperately craving was a good book. Reading has always been my favourite pastime and though there was a library just up the road, it would open only in the evening, meaning that I was facing a long afternoon of utter and complete boredom.

On arrival itself, I had checked out my cousin's book collection, but the reading choices of a 7-year old are obviously limited. I definitely didn't want to read Panchatantra or Aesop's Fables, and of Enid Blyton's many books, I've always preferred the school and mystery series over the magic tales on my brother's bookshelf.

But there was something else on that shelf, something that I'd already sneered at and then dismissed without another thought. On that afternoon though, Bored Beyond Belief, I reconsidered. An old friend's passionate pleas echoed in my head: You have to read it, you just HAVE TO.....its awesome!!! I had just as passionately argued back: its hocus-pocus for kids!!!! To which my friend emphatically declared that there was NOTHING kiddish about it!!!

Thinking some book was better than no book, I resignedly curled up on the sofa with Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets, and with a highly skeptical look on my face, I read ........ and read, and read, and read ........ till the next thing I knew, it was evening and my blissful solitude was shattered by everybody else returning home and making plans for dinner out.

How can I go out, I thought wildly. How would I find out who the heir of Slytherin was?? What if it were Harry himself??? What was this monster in the Chamber???? What if it killed off one of the characters, characters who, in just a few brief hours, I already thought of as friends.

And then an even worse thought struck me: what of the story after this book???? The fourth book in the series - Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire - had been released some months earlier and with it, Pottermania had hit India big time. I had scoffed at the fools who'd queued outside bookshops hoping against hope they'd be lucky to get a copy ...... but now I totally empathised!!!

My mother has always been against buying fiction, and she has a point: with us being members of two libraries, we usually got to read the latest books for a negligible monthly fee, and, most importantly for my mom, we didn't fill up precious storage space with books that we'd likely never re-read. So I knew there was no convincing her to let me buy the book. And the chances of getting a copy from the libraries back home any time soon were very, very slim, what with so many Potter fans around.

The only hope seemed to be the library up the road. I insisted on going there that very evening, though I still hadn't finished the second book. I practically ran there, hoping, yet not daring to hope too much in case it was all in vain. But, Hallelujah!!!! There they were, all four books in the series sitting pretty on a shelf!!!!

However, now I was in a dilemma: which to take??? The situation demanded some quick thinking and advance planning (Ma, you'd have been proud!!!) I knew for sure that the first book had been lying around in one library back home and since I'd already begun from the second book, I figured the first could wait some more. But I was still only halfway through the second ...... would I be able to finish the third and the fourth, which is a really chunky volume, especially since I had just a week, and that too with many outings planned???

I had to try, didn't I? :D

And with a single-minded determination that would've produced wonders had I applied it to academics, I gave my goal my all. Not stopping to savour the thrilling end of the second book, I dived straight into the third. But the leap to the fourth was not as direct; I had to go back and re-read the third book's climax, because it is just ....... beyond thrilling!!! My vocabulary can't do justice to just how shockingly brilliant it is, so lets leave it at that.

However, that little deviation cost me precious time: with everything else that was going on, we now had just two days left in Dubai, and the mighty Goblet of Fire loomed large before me. I was facing my single greatest reading challenge in the midst of more going out and the added burden of packing ........ and I can both proudly and humbly say, that I did it!!!! I finished reading Goblet of Fire in two days!!!

Back in Bombay, I caught the first Potter movie on TV before I could read the book (and someday perhaps I'll do a post on exactly why I loathe all the Potter films so much!), and eventually re-read the others too. My mother not believing in instant gratification, we had to wait a while for the fifth book; it arrived a few months after the release as a wonderful surprise gift from the parents :). Same with the sixth book. I was working when the last one released, so that was my treat to my sister & me.

April - May 2009.
By mutual agreement, my sister had kept the Harry Potter series. So naturally, on this visit home, reading the whole saga from start to finish was high on my list of things to do. I have lost count of how many times I've read them all in these past seven years; but on each occassion, the magic of J.K. Rowling's writing is still powerful enough to make me forget all other hobbies & interests. No other books have captured my imagination as completely as this lot, and I think that will be the subject of a future post - why I love this series so much. In the meanwhile, in the current reading session, I am off to embark on the final part of Harry's tale, as spellbound as I was the first time.


  1. Hmmm.,. one of the HP die hard fans I suppose. :) The story is indeed fascinating and thrilling, mostly because one can relate to it. SO who is your fav character and why...

  2. Really? I still scoff at those reads. Maybe I should give it a try

  3. Prashant - totally a diehard fan!!! My favourite character is Dumbledore. Why? Where to start???? He's the most powerful wizard, but yet so humble, so down-to-earth, so gracious, well-mannered, not to mention funny, he readily admits to his mistakes & most importantly, learns from them....I find his character pretty inspirational :)

    Amrita - a non-believer!!! Yes, its 100% worth a try. Only, do read it in order .... its totally pointless if you start from say, the 3rd book or later.

  4. Shalom.....Seriously, I dont have anything to say.

    Yeah well ok I didnt mean tht..... just meant to say tht I didnt know where to start...;-P

    ur story is very similar to mine.....I too started reading HP only after the 3rd book was out. My sister gifted me the 2nd book...I finished it in 1 day & bot the 3rd book the very next day....tht was an awesome read;-D.
    Then picked up the 1st book. Then saw the movies.
    I have all the books & guard them carefully.

    I too love Dumbledore....u may have seen tht lil pic on the side of my page which I proudly display tht I resemble him closest in all of HP characters;-D.
    And I cried so much when he died:-(.

    And u knw....everytime a new HP book was going to be released I would read the entire series all over again telling myself tht I wd have forgotten some bits & so needed to refresh incase I needed to solve any clues.
    And there was this time one time I ordered a book[the last one] in India & my sister didnt send the book thru my friend who was supposed to give it to me. I cried so much in disappointment tht day;-(. Imagine I cdnt buy another bcoz I already had 1 which was stuck in India. I got it after 3 weeks....even now when I think abt it I get upset;-P.

    Many a time I have thought of making a post out of this but always backed out thinking I'll look like a fool;-P

    And finally...

    JK Rowling....she's AWESOME!!!!!

  5. And oh how cd I have forgotten to tell u....

    .....SUPER POST;-D!!!!!!!!!

  6. I enjoyed this post. I prefer TV books over TV anytime too and as nancy would know still can't bring myself to read Harry Potter. Guess now I'll have to read at least one book seeing how enthusiastic the readers are...we'll see.

  7. Reflections - thanks!!! Yes, I'd noticed that "Which HP Character Are You?" on your blog right away :D I had tears in my eyes after all the deaths, but the ones that hit me the hardest were those in the last book; coz of the media hype & the way JKR built the story, it was kinda inevitable what would happen in the 5th & 6th books, but in the last one.....they wereso totally unexpected, I had to put the book down & walk a bit to compose myself before continuing (I'm not naming names coz there are a couple of non-readers on this pg....don't want to give away suspense in case they someday decide to read :D)

    When I first started blogging & didn't have a clue what to write about, I thought of this subject then, but I too thought it'd be foolish :D, many times through the years I wanted to write, but stopped myself.....this time, it was like the dam burst & I just had to write....the love for the books was greater than any concern for my public image :D

    Lan - you know I've seen your other blog & don't comment coz I hardly read the kind of books you do. Harry Potter is definitely not "literature". But what it is, is an amazingly imaginative story written in a charming, humourous & gripping style. I know some people who started midway through the series, some who even bought the last book'll never appreciate the complexity of the tale that way, so I'd suggest, start from the beginning, if ever you're inclined to read this.

  8. ooops sorry abt revealing the my enthusiasm it didnt occur to me at all to be discreet;-P.
    "the love for the books was greater than any concern for my public image"
    I so understand the 'feelings';-D

    @lan...compared to the last book the first book is quite...u knw almost basic. But then the protaganist is just 11 years old there. As he grows, so does the plot;-))

  9. Reflections - that's ok, the plot still has enough suspense :) And I really liked what you wrote for Lan, was telling my mom the same thing....I've been trying to make her see the light for years!!! :D

  10. i think i am teh only one in this entire planet who doesnt knwo harry potter.. i haven't seen one movie and never read the book.. have always been intrigued though, i know of friends who are potter fans but i have somehow never gotten to do it. one of these days, i keep telling myself :) now i just have to knwo what the hue and cry is all about :)

  11. wah, very interesting:) so far HP uis one thing I have avoided, dont know why may be i thought its the type of story I dont want to read, but now i think may be I should:)

  12. ISH - plz plz plz DO NOT watch the films before reading the books!!!! The films don't do the books justice at all, so plz plz plz read the books first!!!

    Renu - its like Nancy said above, "As he (HP) grows, so does the plot", so you'll need to be patient with the first 2 books, though they're still very charming. But it is important to read them in order coz its a continuing story.