Reading the “Harry Potter” series

Much has been written about the “Harry Potter” series before, so I won’t be reviewing it here. I’m only trying to capture MY experience reading it.

Nothing I write will do justice to how I feel after reading the series. I didn’t read the book when it first came out. Magic??? Soooo not my kinda book, I decided, and never gave it a try for a long time. Then I picked book 1, with a slightest bit of curiosity. I liked it, but not enough to pick the next.

Something about becoming a mother and learning to see the world through a child’s perspective nudged me to give the book another try, years later. I read the first book again, because I’d long forgotten the story. The main characters, Harry, Ronald and Hermione are introduced. They enter Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, to learn the art and science of Magic.

Secrets lurk behind the castle’s umpteen, unseen doors. Ghastly beasts and trolls tread its dark passages. Stuff happens. Exciting but dangerous. Harry and Co. find themselves in the midst of a hullabaloo. They save the day. I loved it! I raced through the second. Then third. And fourth.

In the fourth, a character dies participating in the Triwizard tournament, a competition between the 3 wizarding schools. Murder, in a book written for children. It felt like a deathblow to Innocence. I cried.

The fifth was hard to read. The Dark Lord returns from his parasitic state ( dependent on others for sustenance) to his powerful full-form. He is out to wreak havoc. And kill Harry. Because Harry is destined to kill him (This got me thinking about Lord Krishna’s story). Evil prevails. Happiness is sucked out. Reading it felt like trudging through a post-Apocalyptic Earth. I couldn’t read beyond the first chapter.

But I knew I had to. I craved to know the end. Lord Voldemort’s end. I was determined to read the rest of the series.

So when I drew up a list of things to do before I turn 29 next year, I knew ‘reading the “Harry Potter” series would be one of my top goals. Setting myself a goal and a deadline might help me stay motivated enough to read the whole series without drifting towards other books and losing the continuity, I felt. Also, I dragged my sister along for the ride. We read the books together (but, with miles of distance thrown between us), discussed them and helped one another to keep reading when the reading got tough.

As I read the last book, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”, it felt bittersweet, bitter because I will never be reading the series for the first time again. There won’t be the suspense, the tension that comes with reading a mystery for the first time. It felt sweet because, reading it would help me accomplish a big goal. And accomplish I did. 7 books in less than 5 months. An achievement for me.

Now I want to re-read the series next year. The first time around I read it for the story. But the next time I want to read it deliberately, like a writer, paying close attention to see how the author, J K Rowling, made it work (Is she a wizard herself? Did she wave a wand and have perfect words spew out and link one to another, like beads in a beautiful necklace? The writing surely felt so.)

Of all the characters, I loved Hermione the most (I can’t say that enough!). Her zest for knowledge has inspired me to learn as much as I can about anything that fascinates me (Oh! She’s capable of learning everything about everything! But I’m a real person. With limited time. And limited mental capacity!) Now I don’t just read a book, I study it, which slows my reading, which is totally fine. What’s the big hurry anyway!?

Which book was the best of the lot? I’m still not sure. Each read beautifully, captivated me and kept me reading till the end. But if I had to pick one, I’d choose Book 4, “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”. It stands at the threshold of innocence, beyond which the series gets murkier, cynical, with less humor… In short, more grown-up.

After I re-read the series I will review it once again. And hope that the next review comes close to expressing how I truly feel about this masterpiece.

 

Reading Harry Potter Book 5

It is raining. My window frames trembling leaves of every shade of green. The weather is  perfect. Perfect to lose myself in a Harry Potter book. I imagine my home to be the school of witchcraft and wizardry, Hogwarts itself, with the Forbidden forest right across the window!

The weather needn’t be this perfect for me to read a Harry Potter book. I can pick it up anytime and perfect conditions just happen. But reading “Order of Phoenix” (Book 5) hasn’t been easy-peasy, relaxing-with-a-cup-of-chai type of book so far. The book is dark and slightly depressing. Harry, the central character, is miffed most of the time. Most wizards and witches don’t trust his account of the Dark Lord’s return. They think he’s just a big show-off, cooking up stories to gain attention. He is spurred to shout or fight at the smallest push of his button. The lightning-shaped scar on his forehead (caused by Lord Voldemort when he tried to kill him years ago and which hurts whenever he is around or is enraged) now throbs with pain most of the time. Harry is seeing things no one is able to see except (loony) Luna Lovegood, a junior.

Dumbledore, the headmaster, believes his story and forms the secret “Order of Phoenix”, a group of wizards and witches against Lord Voldemort. The minister of magic, Cornelius Fudge, who actively disbelieves the story wants to overthrow Dumbledore from the position he holds at Hogwarts and the ministry. He sends the toad-like Prof. Umbridge as the new Defense against the Dark Arts teacher to control the goings-on at school from outside. And she causes such misery to students and teachers alike, I began loathing her right from the moment she entered the picture. This book has a gloomy beginning as well, where Harry is attacked by the happiness-sucking Dementors and is almost expelled from Hogwarts for using magic against them. Everything, well, almost everything about this book has been gloomy so far. It’s not just my opinion. My sister feels the same too. And she blames me for her not wanting to sleep or cook lately because I suggested we do the series together. Hard as it has been to read, she is determined to see it through.

I always feel the itch to pick my tablet to read the e-book. But I’m unable to stick to it for long. Invisible hands pull me down and prevent me from forging ahead with the reading. I let books, their characters control me, transform me. I think of the characters as real and their stories move me, disturb me, haunt me. I’m still shaken by Cedric Diggory’s death in Book 4 and wonder how the rest of the school can move past the tragedy. And Harry was almost killed by Voldemort…..

Anyway, I’m determined to read the book. I’ll finish the series, no matter what. The going will be tough but I have my sister with me for the ride.

Weekly update #1

Start of school

Medha is ready to start school and I’m pretty excited! ¬†We bought her text- and note- books and she kept telling me how excited she is about school and her new books. We are both eagerly awaiting the start of a new phase in her life and I am so looking forward to teaching her (after learning… I will be re-learning with her!) from that bundle of knowledge.

 

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As I spread her books on the floor to have their picture taken, Medha kept kissing them! Sooooo like me….

All the parents of future Dipsites (DPS students are called so.) were invited to attend an Orientation ceremony. And we were asked to arrange childcare for our kids. We understood why. The program ran an hour and a half and it was full of talks given by teachers about the school, its rules, their mission, safety policies etc.. I was bowled over by their “Parents as partners in progress” concept.They couldn’t stress more how much our kids imitate us and learn from us and what we can do to become good role models. Living in the US I had learnt this concept by watching how other moms interacted with their kids but to hear teachers in India emphasizing this was a real eye-opener of how far India has traveled from the days of corporal punishment and rote learning at school.

I was relieved to hear that it was OK for Medha to start nursery without prior understanding of letters and numbers. Having been to a playschool in the US, Medha at 4 isn’t capable of writing letters or counting numbers like kids in India do. There, she just played and sang and danced and talked and crafted. Playschools here in India are mini-schools where education is placed importance over free-play. Thus I was worried about her not having had a head start. Now I know she will be fine. She might lag her friends at school but eventually she will get there. By the way, my little girl will have learnt reading and writing capital and small letters, numbers and 2-letter words by the end of this academic year! Fantastic eh? And scary too!

Project 29 Update

I cleaned up my inbox, bringing the total number of emails down from over 3000 to about 300. Phew! There were too many forwards and promotional mails that I hadn’t even bothered to open and read. Also, there were a ton of mails from friends and family which I’d read but would not read again. So I simply deleted them all- one by one- Click. Delete. Click. Delete.

Now I have separate folders for mails from the online classes I joined and the creativity blogs I subscribed to. That way I can reach them whenever I need to without having to rummage through my inbox.

I finished reading “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s stone”. A book about a new beginning (of a life at Hogwarts school) and adventure ( saving the sorcerer’s stone from the vicious hold of Lord Voldemort). What a book to read as I begin my own new life and adventure in India! It went well with the cloudy weather we’ve been experiencing here in Hyderabad.

A lost phone

I lost my phone recently. But I’m not missing it much. In fact I’m loving the fact that I’ve become more productive since the moment it abandoned me. I’m not spending all my time checking mails, whatsapp messages and facebook updates. All that free time at hand means I’m tearing through the Harry Potter series and working to organize and decorate my new home.

Down with fever

Madhav was down with fever. The doctor at Rainbow Hospital diagnosed it as Pharyngitis, an airborne infection of the throat. A couple of days with fever was enough for the doctor to warrant a prescription of antibiotics to my year old. In the US it had been hard to squeeze a prescription out of our pediatrician. He believed our bodies, even teeny tiny ones, were equipped with defense mechanism to fight diseases (He did advocate administering vaccinations, thank god!) and antibiotics were considered a last resort. I kinda like that idea but I also like that relief is easily available here. It would’ve been hard to watch our baby fight his disease without the aid of an antibiotic.

Now everyone at home is glad Madhav is back to his usual, cheerful, bunny-teeth showing self.