Harry Potter came to me in an odd way.
I was a student at a residential school. Once, I was ill and admitted in the on-campus hospital, and there I saw an older student reading ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’. It was the year ‘Sorcerer’s Stone’ came out. ‘Anandamela’, a Bangla children’s magazine, had covered the film in that month’s number. I read about it, but I knew nothing, frankly. I borrowed the book from the older boy and read it for some time. It was nice, I made a mental note to read it properly in the future.
When I got home for the holidays, I saw the film in a cinema. That was the beginning.
Back at the hostel, I remember chasing around classmates who owned the books, – asking them to lend it to me for a few days… there were so many of us in line! I read ‘The Philosopher’s Stone’ when I was in class 6. That book with the big Scarlet Engine on the front, and the Headmaster Albus Dumbledore on the back, clicking his deluminator mischievously.
Then, like a storm of dreams, came ‘The Chamber of Secrets’, and ‘The Prisoner of Azkaban’. So many furtive hours in the classroom, hiding the book under the desk; so many sleepless minutes in the night, reading by torchlight, hidden from the warden’s strict vigil. I can’t ever stop missing those days. We shot the meagre spells we memorized at each other, – we longed for the Great Hall’s laden tables on our way to lunch, we wanted to study Transfiguration and Herbology and – yes! – even Potions so, so much! We were confident we would be AWESOME students at Hogwarts; a chance, why did we never get a chance!
Quidditch. Hogsmeade. Butterbeer and ever-new magic on our minds. Then came ‘The Goblet of Fire’, – I was a boy of fourteen. I can’t remember details at this moment. I can just say it was even better than chocolate.
It was class 9 and we were hard-pressed about our big exams. I read ‘The Order of the Phoenix’ at this time. It was like nothing I had ever witnessed before. I was watching a dream come true. All these guys, all these terrific guys at last getting together. The students, – Fred and George, everyone – finally shaking up and turning into these heroes. And in the end – Dumbledore alone, facing off against Voldemort. – – – My favourite subject was Biology. I noted every word the teacher said in every single class. That one day I couldn’t. Beneath my notebook I had the storybook opened, – and just so that sir doesn’t catch me, – my pen-hand moving in a zigzag like a wave-pattern along the notebook, lines after lines. Later when I looked at the two-page-long scribble, I could tell by the intensity of the zigzag exactly where Dumbledore had stepped in, and exactly when Sirius had died.
It was a long time afterwards that I could get hold of ‘The Half-Blood Prince.’ I was a class 11 student now. The growing shadow mingled with demons of my own, and the last song of Fawkes left me bereft with myself. I was growing into an adult – the book whispered in my ears.
‘The Deathly Hallows’ was lent to me by Srinjay Dutta when I was in college. I stuck with Harry till the very end, and I parted with him in joy and tears. But Harry did not leave me.
To this day, Hogwarts remains with me, all its endless present and unfathomable past resonating in silence, lending me sustenance. And, I for my part, remain with Hogwarts forever.
“The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.”