It was the summer of 2005. I started my 7th grade and it appeared that I have taken an interest in a girl. It was also the summer I began spending time in a library. It was the private library of my English teacher. For some inexplicable reasons, she was fond of the shy and awkward kid who would sit on the last bench and often scribble something gibberish instead of finishing the assignments.
One fine day, while I was doodling away, she walked up to me and asked me what vocation I would choose when I grow up. Now, remember, I come from a place where every kid of my age wanted to be a doctor, engineer or scientist. Maybe, just maybe some braveheart wanted to pursue sports.
The entire class is looking at me. The girl, whom I like but seriously doubted knows I even exist, is looking at me. Even the bird sitting outside the window is looking at me, or so I felt.
“Writer.” There, I blurted it out. My first big moment ever, and I couldn’t even utter a complete sentence.
The class erupted in a frenzy of laughter. The girl, laughing. The bird, flying away. But my teacher, she just stood there. The laughter died down, the clock struck the hour, but my teacher was still silent. Then, she asked me to visit her library that evening. She said if you want to be a writer, first you should read. Read voraciously, she said, as only then you will understand the ardor of words. Words of wisdom, which I follow still.
It started with Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, Treasure Island, Robinson Crusoe. I was engrossed in this new world. Then came Edgar Poe, Tolstoy, Mark Twain, Agatha Christie. There were no bars. I started to comprehend and relish a good novel – how it flows, how the characters become a part of you, how it moves you.
Hemingway to Fitzgerald, to Tolkien, to Paulo Coelho, to Gabriel Márquez, to Dan Brown. I read them. I read them all. I was going through books like there’s no tomorrow. Every minute I was awake, I was with a book. I was breathless, yet I wanted more.
Then one day my teacher said, “Why don’t you try Harry Potter?”
Harry Potter and me? The guy who lives on John Grisham, Jeffrey Archer, Robert Ludlum, will read about a teenage boy and magic? I tried, not very hard, to suppress a smirk.
But she reasoned that I can’t drop an Asimov or move when David Tennant comes on screen as Dr. Who, no matter how much water I have drunk.
So, I brought home Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Someone had borrowed the Philosopher’s Stone, and I had to start with the second part. It was much later that I came to know it was the girl whom I fell for, who issued the first part.
What is this world? I went crazy. How easily I fell in love with the trio of Harry, Hermione, and Ron. How I started hating Malfoy and his comrades Crabbe and Goyle. Or how hard I laughed at Fred and George’s mischiefs. How I traveled the roads of Diagon Alley, how hard I tried to catch the Snitch on a Nimbus, oh how I wanted to be a Parselmouth, or how Uncle Vernon cringed my skin. How my heart hammered when Harry fought the basilisk.
I ran to the library two days later. My teacher smiled. I doubted she had already conjured the unlikeliest of bonds.
The Philosopher’s Stone still wasn’t there. I took out the Prisoner of Azkaban. The next week I was back for the Goblet of Fire. I probably took the longest to read the Order of the Phoenix, a week. It was the week of midterms. By this time, my teacher had already kept aside the pre-ordered Half-Blood Prince for me. I was the second person to read it, after her.
When I was done with these five books, my mind told me this was the best I have ever read. The odds were so in favor of Harry’s world that it wasn’t even funny. Till now it has the crown. Not the middle earth, not the Westeros, but the wizarding world. I have never felt so connected. It will be a long time before I do again.
If you ask me is it the best piece of literature I have ever read? No. Have I never come across characters more brave, or more noble, or even better illustrated? Definitely. Then, you may ask, why is it still the best for me?
Because it was never about those. There’s a reason why it resonated so well with me, and with me half the world. And it had very little to with the literary proficiency.
It was hope. Hope that even if you’re a Neville, you have the power to save the day. It was love. Love that can protect you from the evilest thing. Or love, unrequited but never gone, which gives you the power to personate a villain, when you are the hero everyone deserves. It was loyalty, and honor, and courage, and faith. It was everything that keeps you going when nothing seems to be in your favor. It was an adventure. An adventure which will make you stand for the moribund virtues. And in the journey, you will make the best of friends, will fall in epic love and will live. Live, and not just breathe.
Now fate and I, both joined hands to cast “Evanesco” spell on the girl I liked. There no more remains the hope, that I will be an author one day. With time, the library is gone. No more books on how perfectly Hermione casts a spell. Everything is over.
I am sad that it’s over. But that sadness is of trifling magnitude compared to the joy it gave me. I am happy to be a part of it while it lasted. And maybe someday, from some corner of the world, another enthralling epic will start its odyssey. And I will fall in love. Again.