Monday, August 01, 2011

Not Saying Goodbye To Harry

Let me make a confession at the very start: When a friend excitedly yapped on about Gringgots and Muggles after the first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was released, my immediate reaction, despite being a children’s books junkie (something I remain to this very day) was far from enthusiastic.

I mumbled something about the fact that JK Rowling had basically stolen the plot from Jill Murphy whose Worst Witch series, first published in the 1980s, tell the story of the bumbling Mildred Hubble who attends Miss Cackle's Academy for Witches. So what exactly, I argued, was the need for such a commotion? After all, it was hardly an original idea. And so, I dismissed the thought of reading it without a thought, deeming it a case of ‘been there, done that’.

It was at the prodding of yet another friend in college (I was in my 20s at the time) that I began reading the first book. And the rest, as they say, is history. I was spellbound. I had discovered a world that was a wonderful combination of Blyton’s school stories and her Magic Faraway series, replete with magical creatures, magnificent spells, extraordinary sub-plots, thrilling games of Quidditch that transported – nay, floo networked and pensieved – me into the magical realms well beyond my imagination.

By that time, in 2000, the fourth book Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire had been released, and I had the pleasure of reading all four books in one fell swoop, forgoing many a night on the town – in New York City of all places – for the simple pleasure of discovering more and more about Harry Potter; learning more about the wizarding world, wondering why on earth there was no magical counterpart to the internet (I privately reasoned that it could be called the Wizarding Witch Web – giving a new twist to the world wide web we cannot do without) where Harry could have just Oogled the name Nicholas Flamel instead of wasting so much time in the Hogwart’s library.

Of course, the icing on that very magical cake was the fact that the movie adaptations of the series followed, the last of which Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, was released just last week, which many Potterphiles like me watched at the cinema even if it meant catching the 12 am show.

However, even though the movies were received enthusiastically by people across the world doesn’t mean that they were flawless. After all, the case of a movie bringing to life each and every detail covered in these wondrous books is never likely. But we forgave the filmmakers for changing the colour of Harry’s eyes from blue to green; and although we all missed Peeve the poltergeist, we figured that it was a small price to pay to see Hogwarts, in all its glory, come to life with such intricate and spellbinding detail; to see the floating candles on the enchanted ceiling, to ‘meet’ Harry and his ‘best’ friends Hermione and Ron; to watch his professors, which included Albus Dumbledore, Severus Snape and Minerva McGonagall in action.

And although it was difficult to deal with the fact that the actor Michael Gambon, who played Dumbledore in the first two movies, had passed away and was replaced by Richard Harris in the consequent movies, we realised that it was even more painful to witness Dumbledore’s death as he lay in that cold, white tomb.

However, while the first three movies managed to stay true to the story, under the swift direction of Christopher Columbus and Alfonso CuarĂ³n, perhaps because the books were relatively shorter, it was the fourth and fifth movie adaptations that disappointed many a Potter fan. They ran like documentaries; racing from one magical encounter to another, devoid of the nuanced, storytelling aspect that made the first three movies such a treat. Thankfully, eventually under the direction of David Yates, the last three movies regained the trust of many a Muggle, keeping them fervently waiting for the next one.

Of course, other than the directors, it is the actors who ensured that the films were enchanting. In addition to Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson (who played Harry, Ron and Hermione respectively), the stellar cast included Robbie Coltrane, Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Helena Bonham Carter, Tom Felton and, of course, Ralph Fiennes (who played Hagrid, Minerva McGonagall, Severus Snape, Bellatrix Lestrange, Draco Malfoy and Lord Voldemort respectively), who gave memorable performances that truly brought to life JK Rowling’s diverse characters – from the pages of her books and right on to the silver screen. Perhaps one reasons for this was the actors were primarily British, and thus were able to lend an aura of authenticity to their characters.

But the movies, especially the last one, were special to many Hogwatrisans, because it meant that they didn’t have to say goodbye to their friends Harry, Ron and Hermione just yet, even after the last book Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released in 2007.

All that, of course, has changed. The last movie has been released. There will be no more – at least that is what JK Rowling says. And other than perhaps reading The Tales of Beedle the Bardthere is no way to connect with the magical world of Harry Potter. Other than perhaps playing the video games, or visiting the theme park, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, in Orlando, Florida. (Good luck with getting a visa!)

Then again, there is always the DVD to the last movie that one can wait for – it will, hopefully have some deleted scenes we can savour.

Or, of course, you can always start re-reading the books and then re-watch the corresponding movie. That’s something I have started to do. Because I am not ready to say goodbye just yet.

First published in Books and Authors, July 31, 2011

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Us vs. Us - Or Us vs. Them?

Following the brutal assassination of Salmaan Taseer, it seems like everybody has something to say.

And the most popular debate that has emerged, specifically throughout the English language press and social networking sites, is the “us vs. them” debate. (“Us” being the liberal, English speaking elite, and “them” being the rest of the people of Pakistan, who are lumped into one fanatic category.)

There are proclamations that “they” are all fundos, all ready to kill in the name of Islam. “They”, you see, are the majority. And the proof in the pudding for this scenario is the fact that when they called a rally recently, they, all 40,000 of them stood up cheering on Malik Qadri, because “they” represent the millions of fanatics that supposedly live in Pakistan.

Of course, there is no proof of this. There are no in-depth, quantitative surveys that have been – or could have been – carried out since January 4th. And yet, it seems, that everyone except the teeny tiny elite, is a fundo. Surely, this in itself is a broad generalisation? An example of stereotyping an entire nation’s majority without any proof at all?

After all, the majority could equally well be the silent moderates as it could be the supposed Islamic fundamentalists. But of course, researching or looking into the story an in a comprehensive manner would be too much trouble. So we, the English-speaking minority find it much easier to label the “urdu medium” majority a band of would-be killers and terrorists.

Of course, engaging in conversation with these mad, lunatic zealots is out of the question. After all, the only thing that makes them tick are time bombs and explosives. So we remain in our self-made bubbles, and rest assured that really, the problems in our society has everything to do with them, and definitely not us. All we can do is update our Facebook and Twitter accounts, and perhaps attend a vigil or two!

Thursday, December 30, 2010


It's been a long year. And not a very productive one, either. I don't think I have done much that I can be proud of, in terms of accomplishments.

And other than a trip to Thailand and Gwadar, I don't think there were too many exciting moments either.

But still, there were some fun moments, with some close friends. Some friends grew closer, and not too many drifted away.

There were plenty of things I wanted to change - things that I have not been able to change, or do anything about. Primarily because of my own inherent laziness and averseness to change; and the fact that some things are beyond my control.

But hey, contrary to what people may say, life is long. God know what may happen tomorrow - and living in Karachi, this city that I cannot grow to love, you actually don't know what may happen tomorrow.

Am finally reading something other than "chick-lit" (I call it Lad-Lit) and re-reading children's stories -- I am actually reading Sophie's Choice and am surprised as to how engaging it is, despite the palpable, infinite sadness that the book exudes from time to time.

Yet, I remember when I met William Styron a little more than a decade ago, having seen the movie, I told him that I had read the book; and nice man that he was, he said that I was a very bright young man, who he thought would go far. How wrong he was!

Anyway, let' s hope I get through the entire book. If nothing, I'd have accomplished that!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

A case of "I blog, therefore I am"?

Yes. So instead of thinking about blogging, I am going to start blogging again.

(If nothing, it will be better than staring at the television and watching a gazzilion episodes of a TV show whose characters' lives I know more about than those of my own real life friends.)

So, here goes.

Why is it so much harder to pick up from where I left off? I remember, wayyyy back in 2006 when blogging was considered the in thing to do, I could blog and rant about anything and everything. I blame Facebook! But that too has gotten rather boring. The same people have the same things to say. But that, perhaps, is the problem with life in general: THE MONOTONY.

Everything gets boring after a little while. Whether it is your friends, your work, the TV shows you watch (oh dear god - i need a life), the books you read, the people you meet, the restaurants you eat at... they all end up BORING YOU.

Well. This wasn't so bad. Maybe I will return to blog land soon.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Sometimes I think that we just go through the motions of living just to pass the time. Perhaps because we really have no choice but to do so.

Sometimes I just want to hit fast forward on my life -- and see where it takes me. If I don't like what I like, I would rewind, redo. Probably.

I could do something constructive rather than remaining bored, irritated, and discontented with most things in my life.

But what would the fun be in that?

Friday, April 30, 2010

Ophelia's Song

Where the daisies laugh and blow,
Where the willow leaves hang down,
Nonny, nonny, I will go
There to weave my lord a crown.

Willow, willow, by the brook,
Trailing fingers green and long,
I will read my lord a book,
I will sing my love a song.

Though he turn his face away,
Nonny, nonny, I will sing,
Ditties of a heart gone gray
And a hand that bears no ring.

Water, water cold and deep,
Hold me fast that I may sleep.
Death with you is hardly more
Than the little deaths before.

Excerpted from Killing Mr Griffin by Lois Duncan

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Back with no bang

Looking back on the years since I began to blog, I realised that I was much more regular before. And it got me to wonder why I stopped. Was it because once printed, my thoughts seemed rather silly? Or was it that I just became plain lazy? Or more of a private person.

Oh well, God only knows. What I do know, however, is that blogging is rather therapeutic - and serves well as a venting platform more than anything else.

Actually, the more I think about it, I have to say that Facebook is the culprit. With Facebook - and Twitter too, to an extent - I do all my venting, so there's not much left to vent about. But since of late I have been feeling rather blah and restless, perhaps it is time i blogged more - and hopefully about more interesting things than my petty, petty thought!

So, point of this silly little post, is that I will now try and blog more. But hopefully, will actually end up writing things that people will actually read!