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The Rediff Special/Sukanya Verma
June 23, 2003
What may seem like Greek to Muggles (non-magic folk or ordinary human beings) spells pure magic for Harry Potter fans throughout the world.
To be a part of a magical world is every young imagination's fantasy -- whether it is in the enchanting tale of Cinderella's fairy godmother turning a pumpkin into a carriage or Aladdin discovering a lamp with a genie who makes his every wish come true.
What makes J K Rowling's Harry Potter series special is her real, yet surreal, portrayal of the life and adventures of a young wizard. Her free flowing writing, combined with her speciality -- weaving extraordinary elements into what would have otherwise been an ordinary tale -- gives her that extra edge.
Like any regular school, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has its own set of rules and regulations. They too have a house system -- Griffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Slytherin. They have the mandatory head boys and prefects, a mix of lenient (Deputy Headmistress and Transfiguration Professor Minerva McGonagall) and stern (Potions Professor Severus Snape) teachers and an adorable school principal -- Professor Dumbledore.
On the exclusive side, Harry is unlike any other boy. Bestowed with exceptional magical powers, he soon enters the non-Muggle world of Hogwarts -- flying cars, hidden spells, brewing potions, flying broomsticks, invisible cloaks, terrifying demons, monstrous spiders, irresistible food and bewitched companions.
So far Rowling has come out with four books – Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone (1997), Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets (1998), Harry Potter And The Prisoner of Azkaban (1999) and Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire (2000) -- each of which proved to be a publishing sensation! The craze grew with Warner Bros' big screen adaptation of the first two Potter books.
After a long wait that lasted three years, Rowling came out with the much-hyped and well-guarded fifth book in the seven book Potter series. Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix released exactly at the dawn of June 21.
The excitement and anticipation levels among Potter fans -- both children and adults -- was mercurial. What makes the bespectacled Harry so hugely popular? Perhaps the children who were eagerly waiting for the clock to strike midnight on June 20 can provide an answer.
James Sheasley, 13, of Pennsylvania's Central Mountain Middle School, USA, is addicted to Rowling's books. He particularly admires Professor Snape. James says, "The characters are whole, not one-dimensional." For the new book, he foresees a female defence against the dark arts teacher and Ron Weasley (Harry's goofy friend) turning keeper at the wizard game, Quidditch.
Samyukta Lakshman thinks it would be great fun to be part of the Hogwarts adventure. She adores Harry because he is the hero and considers Professor Remus J Lupin (Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban) one of Hogwarts' best teachers. The 13-year-old, who is studying in Mumbai's Jamnabai Narsee School, is also the proud owner of a Harry Potter doll. "It looks exactly like Harry with its hair a dishevelled mess and the lightening-shaped scar. And it's clad in wizard robes."
Samyukta has pre-ordered her copy of Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix and predicts Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger will get together (romantically) in the new book. She adds, "Although reports say Dumbledore will die, I don't think that will happen. He might die in the sixth or seventh book."
Vaishnavi Sharma from Noida's Delhi Public School is biting her nails to find what happens in the fifth book, while Tanya Desai of Convent of Jesus and Mary, New Delhi, finds the Harry Potter books engrossing and loves the dialogues between the characters. Tanya enjoyed the climax of The Goblet Of Fire and believes one of Harry's close friends will die in the forthcoming book.
It is interesting to see the plots concocted in the minds of these young Harry Potter fans. While Vaishnavi believes Voldemort is Harry's grandfather who murdered his son for marrying a Muggle, 14-year-old Chitwan Dogra of Delhi Public School believes Harry will start liking dal-chawal. Ashima Jain from New Delhi's Convent of Jesus and Mary is certain Ron will die and Hermione will become Harry's girlfriend.
Talk about imagination developing wings!
After Harry, Hermione or bookworm --as Ron teases her – seems to be the hot favourite with the younger readers. Surbhi likes Hermione because she understands what the teacher explains, knows her magic well and is articulate. Nineteen-year-old Siddhu Warrier of Chennai nurses a soft corner for her after he saw Emily Watson play Hermione on the big screen.
Others like Sakshi Sharma of Delhi Public School adore Hogwarts gamekeeper Rubeus Hagrid because he is powerful yet benevolent. Sakshi says she forgets the tensions of school as she browses through the books. The magical feasts and moving staircases at Hogwarts also fascinate her.
Parv Agarwal has his own reasons for being a fan. "I love this book because Harry lives without his parents. Had his parents been alive; he would never become a successful wizard," says the 11-year-old. Another 11-year-old, Nissim Jain of Noida's Amity International School, is "very, very anxious to know what happens next." Her bet is Ron will die and Harry will have a close brush with death.
"The stories are woven in an engaging fashion," points out 17-year-old Sarita Kekri from Dharampet M P Deo College in Nagpur. She says the stories have a rich and strong background. "The way J K Rowling builds up a plot is amazing. Every book has a certain newness attached to it." Sarita's favourite characters are Sirius Black (Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban), Professor Snape and Professor Lupin because they are well developed. "Snape comes across as a shady guy all along, yet he saves Harry's life [in The Chamber of Secrets]," she says.
In a bid to find out what happens in the new book, Sarita stumbled on some news reports on the Internet that suggest Dumbledore tells Harry why Voldermort killed his parents. According to these reports, she says, Professor Snape's old love interest will make an appearance in the new Potter book.
Atrija adds, "What I enjoy most is that kids can do magic. They have magical wands. Plus they have their own pets like Harry's owl, Hedwig, Hermione's cat, Crookshanks, and Ron's former rat, Scabbers."
Atrija's friend, Smruti, is hell bent on getting her copy before anyone else. So much so that, for her birthday which falls in the month of April, she refused to accept any gifts from her parents. Instead, she asked them to present her with Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix on June 21.
The Potter films (Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone and Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix), starring Daniel Radcliffe as Harry, have played an important role in increasing the popularity of the books. Nineteen-year-old Nikki Jogani, who is studying at Mumbai's Government Law College, says she became a fan after she saw Christopher Columbus' Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone. Nikki loves to read fantasies and will be ordering her copy of The Order of the Phoenix as soon as possible. "After The Magical Faraway Tree series [by Enid Blyton], this is the first book I read that had me hooked from the first page. I felt I too was at Hogwarts. You become a part of their world. The book is magical!"
Sidhu, who studies at Chennai's Hindustan Engineering College, agrees. He feels both children and adults are hooked on Harry Potter. "There is plenty of dark stuff inside [the books] that can even scare an adult. I started reading when I was around 17. The Harry Potter books are good, clean fun and aren't trivial like Enid Blyton. The fourth book is really dark. The story moves in a natural progression, so do the characters. Potter thinks how a 14-year-old would think." The new book, at Rs 795, is expensive but Siddhu is hoping his friend will pitch in half the moolah and make a joint investment of sorts.
Radhika Mittal is enthusiasm personified when it comes to Harry Potter. A professional human resources consultant, she first heard of the books around four or five years ago when her uncle got them for her from Geneva, Switzerland. "It reminds you of your childhood. At the same time, it has a slightly grown up feel."
Her favourite character, like Bombay Scottish's Dhruv Swaroop and IIM Lucknow's Gaurav Sabnis, is Ron Weasley. "He is more interesting than the others [Harry, Hermione]. He is a little slow but provides entertaining diversions." Gaurav, who is 22, predicts more defections to the dark side and a key character becoming a turncoat.
Sansriti Dwivedi who, at 15, is as old as Harry Potter is in the new book had read the previous four books five times each. "They [the books] are extremely engaging and make for an interesting read when one is not bogged down by studies," says the student of New Delhi's Frank Anthony Public School.
The Potter mania is not limited to children; even their parents enjoy reading the Potter tales. Sansriti's father, a scientific officer at New Delhi's National Physical Laboratory has read all the books and can't wait to get his hands on the latest copy.
The worldwide fascination for the Harry Potter books comes like a breath of fresh air in a world where television and computer games have taken precedence over the habit of reading.
Only time will tell whether Harry Potter continues to remain a mania. But one thing is certain; magic makes the world go round. So pull on your wizard hat and let imagination take a flight as Harry Potter and company gear up to cast a yet another spell on you.
The Rediff Specials