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Celebrating 7 years since we said goodbye to Harry Potter

I'm trying really hard to finish this article before midnight. Because midnight will end this rather special month. Thanks to BoingBoing, I realised that this month marks the seventh anniversary of the seventh book in the Harry Potter Series, which was released in the seventh month of the seventh year in the new millennium. As Caroline Siede points out, our generation has been shaped and defined by Harry Potter.

Yeah, I've had my fair share of a love-hate relationship with Harry Potter. I've even blogged about how I dislike the series in the past, something that, I always joke, lost me five friends on Facebook. And yet it is Harry Potter that shaped my adolescent years, just as Enid Blyton shaped my childhood years. Harry Potter, for us who grew up in the middle of it all, is much more than ever could be for those who came after us, those who never have felt the anticipation of waiting for the next book to be published, while dreaming up their fates, and being disappointed by fake stories published on the web.

My first experience with Harry Potter was with the very first movie, which was so bad that I lost any inclination to read the books for a long time. The first time I ever heard of Harry Potter was, I believe, off the coast of Australia, in a magazine, when my mum told me of this new series, written by an obscure writer who wrote in coffee shops because she couldn't afford to heat her house, and who was rejected by countless publishers until she finally got noticed. My memory is hazy on the exact text of the article, but I believe it said something like Harry Potter lived in a world where everything and everyone was nice, and described the world of Harry Potter as a utopia. Either the writer of that article had never read Harry Potter, or my memory has become extremely hazy. What I do remember is thinking how much I'd hate books describing utopia. That article, with the exceedingly bad movie, threw me off Harry Potter for quite a few years.

The first time I ever actually read the book was in school, under a desk. At the time, we had to take vivas, which in itself isn't all that bad a thing; but when vivas mean that everyone else in the class is forced to listen to someone trying to stutter their way through Polonius' advice to his son from Hamlet, or trying to solve algebra without a piece of paper, boredom sets in relatively quick. And it's not that our textbooks at 100 pages were any good reading either. At that point, out of sheer boredom, I borrowed Rohan's copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.

Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of number four, Privet Drive were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much...

I was hooked. The movie was crappy, the review bad. And yet, here I held this wonderfully well written piece of literature, this story that painted such a beautiful picture, with the right amount of intrigue that makes a book un-put-down-able. Soon, I had read books one through three. My parents disapproved, they never got the charm that Harry Potter could offer a thirteen year old, which is really hard to experience now that I no longer am thirteen. Soon, I found myself in a room with book five, and with the knowledge that I only had the next five hours to read as much of the book as I possibly could, I read the entire book in four hours, then re-read my favourite parts in the remaining hour. I had a headache for the rest of the week. :)

My Harry Potter anachronism resulted in me reading the fifth book before the fourth, but it did not matter, because I had to wait a whole year until the sixth book was published, and even more until the local library got a copy, which was immediately loaned out to someone who fit the description "not me". So, I ended up reading the sixth book after having heard all that happened in the book, and I still enjoyed it, because it's the storytelling, and not the story that matters. Not that I could have helped it anyway. "Dumbledore dies" was quite the headline the day the book was released. Apparently, newspapers have soulless people whose sole job is to be first in line at the bookstore to buy a book released at midnight, then read it cover to cover, compile a list of spoilers, all before the print deadline.

This time also marked magical duels fought in the classroom aisles, with pens that were as far removed from Ollivander's wands as Mitt Romney is with the knowledge of the average income of the middle class. It did not matter that our pens could not shoot jets of light, or that we had no idea on how to choose the winner in a mock magical duel. It was the thrill of imagining ourselves in Harry's place, on the edge of danger, tempting fate, and fighting to stay alive.

These duels also raised an interesting aspect about the world of Harry Potter. Apparently, we rational minds incapable of embracing the wonderful world of magic, had decided that the only spell useful in a duel was Stupefy, with the shield charm Protego. I mean, honestly, Voldemort seems to be the only sensible guy when it comes to duels. Avada Kedavra, and that ends the duel. Why bother with tickling charms, stinging hexes, bat bogey hexes, snakes, or leg-lockers? But I digress.

If memory serves right, I did get my hands on the final, the seventh book almost as soon as it was released. Which meant that I could identify the BS from facts, and this led to a lot of hilarity, especially with making up fake storylines to tell my friends. Like Hermoine died. That Snape killed her.

All this happened seven years ago, and seven years is just too long a time. Which is probably why Rowling released yet another teaser, a tabloid article by Rita Skeeter about cracks in the Harry Potter household, and between the characters we so grew up to love. Perhaps that's Rowling telling us that perfect as the characters may have been, life is much more complicated than fiction. Or is it just Rita being herself?

One thing's clear: my generation has been shaped and defined by Harry Potter. Those books were the one thing that gave us all a common ground to talk about, to play mock duels with pens in the classroom aisles, to dream up storylines, and just brought us all closer. Here's to a magical seven years since our generation said goodbye to the series...


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