BY ZAINAB AHMED
The year 2022 started on a stellar note for a lot of people across the globe. What’s stellar in the midst of a global pandemic, you ask. Believe it or not, It is the magic of the global fandom of Harry Potter, that made everything better.
On January 1, 2022, an entire generation walked down the memory lane together as ‘Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts’ was aired on Harry Potter’s 20th Anniversary. For all those who grew up with the Harry Potter series (books and movies), to watch the cast of the movies speak about Harry Potter was like reliving our childhood all over again.
How magical it was to watch Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Emma Watson (Hermione Granger), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley) and Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy) along with others speak about Harry Potter the way we did. I had goosebumps when they said how they grew up with Harry Potter. We all cried when Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid) got emotional.
After all, me, my friends and thousands like us grew up with Harry Potter, watched him evolve, his world change, while witnessing our own world-changing. How wonderful it was to realise that someone in London, 4,900 miles away from me in India shared the same emotions and lived identical experiences that I did, all thanks to a common thread of Harry Potter.
I still remember when I had first found the first book of the series written by British author J K Rowling – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in my school library. I was only 10 then but three years late to the fandom, but it embraced me, nevertheless. After that, there was no turning back. I used to read the books in a mad rush to complete it and would rush to discuss the literary genius I found as a child, with my only other friend who was hooked to these books. Our school librarian was more than happy that her students were yearning to read, all thanks to Harry Potter. I had my father on board my Harry Potter craze – he would lovingly get me my hardbound Harry Potter books, right after it was available in India. It was a big deal for a middle-class family to get their hands on the original hard bounds at that time.
You see, we were in a Central Government School, which put us a few steps behind our counterparts in convent schools in the city. But that did not stop us from reading these books, dissecting the plot, predicting the storylines in the next books, or talking about it non-stop to our parents who were clueless about who Harry Potter was or what was the meaning of Muggles or why I was suddenly obsessed with owls and the idea of visiting London and 9 ¾ platform at King’s Cross Station.
(Spoiler alert) I still remember the heartbreak I felt when Snape murdered Dumbledore in Harry Potter and Half-Blood Prince. I kept hoping he would return from the dead and save the day, like always. But then, Rowling had to give us important lessons on life and reality. But what I was not ready for was Snape’s storyline. That wrecked my friend and me emotionally for days. I can now imagine what my mother would have gone through to watch me cry for my Harry Potter characters. That reading helped me graduate to bigger, heavier fantasy books like The Lord of The Rings and intense non-fiction readings.
Once the Harry Potter movies reached India, another important task loomed on our heads – to watch them and hope to not get disappointed that it did not match up to our imagination. I remember watching Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire in a multiplex. It was an exciting experience and a disappointing one. Among the disappointments, the biggest was the decision to dress the Patil sisters – Parvati and Padma (played by Shefali Chowdhury and Afshan Azad) in mediocre and boring lehngas. I assure you, not one of us expected them to wear that for the Yule Ball. I will not be wrong to say that the disappointment returns every time we watch that movie. Sigh!
But let us not get into the movie vs the book argument. It is a topic that needs several pages and details.
This piece is dedicated to the love for Harry Potter – books and movies.
The movies helped another part of our generation, who skipped the books and relied on the visual medium for the peek into the wizarding world. The movies were, beyond a doubt, a treat. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was an artistic masterpiece, while the last three movies were darker and much more emotionally engaging. How can I forget the actors’ playing each other when they were supposed to be under the effect of Polyjuice Potion – especially the scene in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows where Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix Lestrange) displayed perfect mannerisms of Hermoine while showing the complexities of the character.
Well, there are very few movies that can boast of capturing an entire generation’s imagination as Harry Potter has. Even today, my mother stops at the channel that is airing Harry Potter and calls me to watch it. Even though I have watched the movies a zillion times, I still sit down to watch them. I also knew that the person whom I would marry had to be Potterhead; thankfully, he is. Isn’t that true love!
Harry Potter hooked many of my friends to reading and introduced us to a culture, a country that was miles away from us, yet so close. After all, we were living that life – some of us were hoping to make friends, others were learning to celebrate their uniqueness, while few were trying to prove themselves and show to the world that they belonged and were not ‘muggles’.
Even today, when the realities of the world are too much to handle, I return to my safe place in Harry Potter – I re-read those books or simply watch the movies all over again. It is like my little time machine that takes me back to my childhood when I could sit down with my books and read them without any worries, while my parents made sure I was in my safe space.
To watch the Harry Potter reunion was to bring back all those memories. I cried when Emma Watson cried and laughed when Daniel Radcliff said something funny. It was like meeting my old friends after years of adulting.
I can safely say that the emotional roller coaster that Harry Potter gifted to my generation is beyond any words can explain. No matter how old I grow, or where I am, if anyone asks me if I still read Harry Potter, obsess over fandom, or watch the movies, I am simply going to say – “Always!”
When not writing, Zainab is thinking or planning about writing. Potterhead for life, she is all about the simpler joys of existence – museums, movies, music (love alliterations), books, travel, food and culture. With a Masters in Political Science and International Relations, Zainab is also a researcher with one eye on serious defence and strategic affairs, and another one on everything Foreign Policy and diplomacy. Bio is subject to edit when she finds more joys, passions and solutions for world peace.