I have never read a Harry Potter book. But my friend Saurabh is a huge fan and in this GUEST POST he writes why he loves the Harry Potter book series.
Harry Potter is a fabulous story of the victory of love, laughter, friendship and the nobler values of life over the darker obsessions of death, misery and callous indifference. The protagonist is an ordinary child who was raised without parents by his rather obnoxious aunt and uncle, with an even hard to like cousin named Dudley. Dudley is an overly pampered child, pampered to the extent that impairs the development of skills necessary to effectively function in the society as a responsible adult. Harry, on the other hand, despite ill-treatment and regular bullying by Dudley and his gang, develops skills like running away from danger and fending for oneself, a skill that appears absolutely critical for anyone who aspire to function in today’s overcrowded workplaces.
Dudley expects the world to take care of his needs, and Harry knows better. Which is why he makes better friends than Dudley’s cronies. Harry makes friends like the overshadowed youngest brother Ron and the smartest student in class, a girl named Hermione. He also makes significant enemies like Draco Malfoy and his creepy cronies who place enormous value on material power, wealth and social status: even though most of it was inherited. Ron’s family is rather affable and cultivate virtues like kindness, compassion and public service even though they barely make ends meet to support their rather large family.
Harry knows neglect first hand at the hands of his Aunt, Uncle and Dudley to take instant liking to Ron and his family despite a startling discovery of his significant inheritance. Harry is indeed grateful for the love and affection showered by Ron’s parents. Ron is blissfully unaware of those treasures that are doled out by his fussy mother, quirky father, an assortment of elder brothers and an adorable younger sister named Ginny. There is something to be said about sisters who grow up way before we realise she has a life of her own.
Ron is naturally pathetic at navigating the rather turbulent undercurrents of relationships for he never really had to work for any except perhaps his romantic interest that blossoms beautifully out of a friendship. A friendship that somehow survived mean, petty and at times ugly fights. Romance becomes reality only after Ron comes to terms with own self, a stormy voyage of growing into adulthood, set in the background of an adventure with his friends, teachers and well wishers, all of whom seek to defend themselves from evil personified by – “he who must not be named”.
Fear thrives on the unknown and knowledge is perhaps the only elixir of life. A cranky and unhappy boy, not unlike myself, who learns a wrong lesson early in his childhood that he can get things done by hurting people and even with the mere threat of hurting their loved ones, grows up to be Tom Marvolo Riddle, a ruthless murderer who thinks of life as something that can be snuffed out at will, and therefore utterly meaningless. He fashions himself as the one true person of knowledge and power, the one who has gone beyond death, Lord Voldemort.
There, I named him!.., although people in the story were afraid of doing so out of the fear of inviting death. Voldy grows old and seeks to accumulate more and more power by terrorizing the masses, enough for them to not speak about him.. an effect coined by an Egyptian-American author of “The Radical Muslim” as the “Voldemort Effect”. One could characterize such an undercurrent in India under the pretense of religion with similar terminology.
We are indebted to J K Rowling, the author of Harry Potter series, for introducing children to various shades of evil in the course of her book and thus empowering them with the knowledge to recognize, and in many cases, the way to deal with them effectively. She has stayed away from obsessing on rather horrendous possibilities of life like war, murder and child abuse, but she has certainly not shied away from presenting a fuller examination of the effects of cruelty on their loved ones. Joanne Kathleen Rowling has certainly spoken.
A key difference between civilized and uncivilized worlds is the value placed on freedom of speech. The golden inner voice of conscience is often sought to be silenced, like in the case of the slaved class of elves, or drowned out by ridicule and mockery, like the meritorious Hermione finds out in her struggle to help them stand up to their rights. A history of oppression often leaves the oppressed distrustful of freedom and light pretty much like the men in Plato’s Cave. Harry befriends such an oppressed elf named Dobby, and all that Harry has really done is to not treat him like an object of servitude, as a person with no free will. Voldemort is a contrast in his cowardly quest to enslave all.
Prof. Albus Dumbledore amongst the very many courageous ones from the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, a stalwart of knowledge and wisdom and an epitome of a kindness is no exception to the entrapment of greatness and perfectionism. He has had to weigh between his personal aspirations and personal responsibilities towards the wellbeing of his sister Ariana – who had been abused as a child by mindless miscreants. He has a rather low profile, goat loving brother who was disappointed and perhaps a tad angry with Albus despite what the world says.
Guilt is a natural response to the loss or harm of life. It is the fuel that should drive one to self-preservation, rather than treated as a meaningless side effect like perhaps that of some substance abuse. There must be something wrong with Old Riddle of a Tom who felt not an iota of guilt over innumerable murders as opposed to Prof. Dumbledore who agonizes endlessly on having failed to prevent the death of his sister in a freak accident. Someone should have told him not be so hard on himself, even though he could have been more careful and not got carried away with visions of greatness, for there is no turning back of time in reality – you just carry on living with your scars.
Harry Potter outgrows his scar, a scar that was a result of an attempted murder as a child, a scar that pains mercilessly in the presence of Voldemort. Harry’s parents died trying to protect their one year old son. The grown up Harry is unsure if there is any difference between him and Voldemort for some remarkably striking similarities between them. He is able to think like Lord Voldemort! However, as Prof. Dumbledore wisely guides: “We are what we choose to be”. Harry is never tempted by the lure of wealth and power promised by Voldy Lordy. Harry has intimately known what it means to lose your loved ones – that is the inevitable result of Tom’s pursuit.
Tom Riddle is utterly bemused, often like the rest of us, with Prof.Dumbledore’s implorations of the supremacy of the ancient knowledge and understanding of love, bemused to the extent of incredulance and boredom, for he was never in the pursuit of truth but only that of power. J K Rowling teaches us that truth is at once a beautiful and a terrible thing that must be treated with utmost caution. I must caution Pranav’s readers that the series is a fantasy.
There have been too many of Harry Potter fans like myself who have lived in her fantasy by reading and re-reading those fantastic stories, pretty much like Harry returns again and again to the “Mirror of Erised” in the first book. Harry is lucky to have had a kind teacher like Dumbledore who gently reprimands him for such obsession with gazing at heart’s deepest desires: reminding him that people have wasted their lives in front of them – “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live”.
A purposeful life, as all good people have exhorted, is one lived by working towards the enlightened fulfillment of one’s deepest desires. J K Rowling has done the same with her words – the real magic of her work. Words can cut, words can heal and words can let me know how you feel. So, I don’t like to have had my mouth shut in fear. Feelings can be scary and people with meaningless lives are scared so easily with laughter, truth, beauty, and light for those often have the contagious power to drive one back to the core at one’s heart – whether a painful void or something golden, something precious … something worth living for.
I am grateful to Pranav to have offered me the opportunity to write a review of my favorite book, and hope that his readers find it useful enough to go pick a copy, and perhaps gift it to a beloved friend.