Today, the 26th of June, raise your wands for the 20th anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
Harry Potter is my childhood. One day, when I was 11, the old man running the tiny lending library that I frequented – my library of dreams because that was my main source for books from near and far – placed this book on top of my pile and said ‘you will love this’; as he often does. I was so delighted to find the protagonists the same age as me. I grew up with Harry and his friends.
The stories are written with wit, charm and heart by the incomparable J. K. Rowling. The sweeping magical world and its myriad of creatures have always felt more real than life. For me, it is not just the incredibly written stories but Harry Potter is special on a very personal level. Incredibly shy and with no talent for even the slightest small talk, I found it very hard to make friends in school. Most of the friendships that I formed in my later years even up to college where through our shared love of Harry Potter. You would see a Harry Potter doodle on the corner of their notebook or they would hear you mention it and say, ‘Oh you like Harry Potter too?’ and that is the magic spell. It is instant and magical. Some of my best friends and in fact, my closest friends started from this question.
Harry Potter was also my introduction to the internet. The first time I ventured into the world of blogs and forums was to talk about and discuss theories in the lull between books. This would eventually lead me to discover anime and manga and Japanese and meet brilliant people.
My fond Harry Potter memories are numerous. As infuriating and nerve-wracking as it was, I loved the wait between books the most. Reading the stories out loud to mum, hours and hours of discussing with my best friend and going to see the movies with her, discovering and sharing on forums, sitting between mom and dad and watching in open-mouthed amazement as my beloved world came to life in the first movie, getting the last book, Deathly Hallows, from my best friend and being unable to concentrate on classes for the rest of the day, reading the books in one sitting, eyes burning; and quite recently, standing in the crowd, trying desperately not to start crying as I stared up at the Castle towering in front of me at the wizarding World. And dreaming, dreaming, dreaming.
There are so many editions of the books and the 20th anniversary editions are so gorgeous. But my set is all second-hand books and they are all different cover editions. Now, they are all falling apart, full of food and coffee stains, held together by glue and tape. These are the books I first read them in and they are so incredibly special to me. My copy of the Philosopher’s Stone is in pages held together by tape from having been read too many times; Prisoner of Azkaban’s pages are rumpled from having gotten wet in the rain, there is a huge coffee stain of the whole of my Order of Phoenix book from when I dropped a whole mug on it; the latter half of Deathly Hallows has fallen apart from too much use. This is what a priceless treasure looks like.
I re-read Philosopher’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets often (I read Stone last week), when I’m feeling lost or sad. I have to stop at that because if I read the 3rd book, I will be consumed by the desire to read till the last book. I have read all the books so many times that I could recite most parts to you; but, the wonder and joy never fades.