It’s here finally… the long wait is almost over… a wait spanning a decade. In a mere matter of less than 24 hours, as I sit writing this, publishing history will unfold before my eyes. A simple idea conceived by a struggling single mother on a train ride, way back in 1990 is near completion. Tomorrow the world will know. Tomorrow millions of devout readers will know everything… if their favorite boy wizard lives or dies in his unenviable quest to rid the world, both magic and muggle, of the most fearsome dark sorcerer of all, the most evil of them all, the Dark Lord, Lord Voldemort, a.k.a. Thomas Marvolo Riddle.
Saturday is bound to be quiet day, across most of the world, TVs are going to be turned off and movie theatres and amusement parks are bound to be empty. Simply because millions of readers both young and old are going to be buried deep in the nearly 800 pages of a book, not just rooting for, but living, breathing, dueling, planning, searching, hurting, loving, laughing, grieving, and hopefully triumphing with a young wizard, an extremely likeable young man by name of Harry James Potter.
The count down for the release of the 7th and last book began as 2006 ended. Sometime around Christmas, JK Rowling announced the title of her last book and soon the date of release was announced. And since then this post has been in the making. I just did not feel ready enough to write it. Even today I wonder what exactly I am feeling right now. I am going through a whole gamut of emotions. Anxious, eager, of course, to get my hands on that last book and finally know how it will all end.
And at the same time, I am feeling extremely sad. A vague kind of emptiness. Not just because I know that the bell might toll for some of my favorite characters. It’s that sense of finality. That this is it and that there is no more. After every book, there was that sense of anticipation. The nonstop theorizing, guessing, the endless rumors doing the rounds, the wait, the countdown, the excitement of it all.
But now what, or rather after this what? It’s an acute sense of desolation I tell you. I feel wretched. I want that book in my hand and I do not want it. I might try to put off reading it or try to read it in small bits. But no, I know I will have to read it in one sitting or at the most two. How can I let it be when Harry’s life hangs in balance?
I don’t think any book or series in the past or future has been so anticipated, and eagerly awaited. I think we are all very fortunate to be part of what I can only describe as history. Yes, this is part of history. Argue if you will that this is just hype and clever marketing and what not. And it was just the thought that it might be just hype that made me avoid the series till long after the 4th book was out. I refused to read it dismissing it as just a marketing ploy. But finally I succumbed and since the library ran out of the 1st three books, I started off with the 4th. Needless to say, I fell for it, hook line and sinker. It was a veritable feast I tell you, to have 3 other books immediately available for me to read. No long waits.
And to anyone who comes to me with this argument, I have but Abe Lincoln’s words to quote,” You can fool some of the people all the time and all the people some of the time. But you cannot fool all the people all the time.” Exactly. If millions of people could be bowled over, it cannot all be hype now. Can it?
So as I prepare to say goodbye finally to all of them, I remember the ones we already bid farewell to. The young boy Cedric Diggory, who was, “good, and kind, and brave,” …
Harry’s godfather the dashing, handsome, ill-fated Sirius Black, a man who spent more than a decade in the living hell of Azkaban for no fault of his, a life of tragedy, a life so wretched, a man who till his very end never really tasted happiness and contentment that comes from family. Harry’s surrogate father who hoped to live a life of peace with him, sometime in the future… I am sure every reader mourned with Harry at the end of book 5 and many I am sure secretly and sincerely hope that he will be back. “Sirius for ever…”
And then, the most noble of them all, the most brilliant one of them all, the only one the Dark Lord feared, our favorite headmaster Albus Percival Wolfric Brian Dumbledore. He with the twinkle in his eye, a spring in his step, and a love for muggle sweets and knitting patterns. The wisest one who considered music to be a greater magic than all they do within the walls of Hogwarts. A quirky, eccentric lovable genius whose few words before a feast consisted of just ‘ nitwit, oddment, blubber, tweak’.
I wonder who will be the next. I have my own pet theories regarding that, but let me wait and see. And I with all the other Potter fans (go ahead, call us Pottermaniacs. At this point, we would consider it an honor) would deny, rage against, grieve, and finally accept, not just all those coming deaths, but the final passing of the series itself.
Tomorrow when I go to the midnight book release party at the neighbourhood bookstore, our fraternity will be celebrating with an underlying sense of sadness. Our jubilation will be fraught with sorrow. But we will celebrate, celebrate the victory of good over evil, celebrate the lives sacrificed, but not in vain, celebrate the survivors, and above all, celebrate the return of the magic and the joy of reading, which I think is the greatest magic that JKR performed.
The magic lies in the wonderful way she has created a whole universe and populated it with characters that are so fantastic and at the same time so believable. The magic lies in the way she presents to us in the words of Dumbledore, the most important message of the book, the underlying theme that runs throughout, that it is not our abilities, but rather our choices that define who we are. Words that I personally find powerful and comforting.
Meanwhile, before Harry battles his nemesis, I have another battle to face at home. Amazon has promised to deliver my copy on the day of release itself, but who will read it first? Me or my daughter? The battle is on. I think it would do us all well to remember who the adult here is, and I think this is a fine time to exercise the God given right of parenthood. Of course, I get to read it first…
How it all started on the Big Screen.