Reading the “Harry Potter” series

Much has been written about the “Harry Potter” series before, so I won’t be reviewing it here. I’m only trying to capture MY experience reading it.

Nothing I write will do justice to how I feel after reading the series. I didn’t read the book when it first came out. Magic??? Soooo not my kinda book, I decided, and never gave it a try for a long time. Then I picked book 1, with a slightest bit of curiosity. I liked it, but not enough to pick the next.

Something about becoming a mother and learning to see the world through a child’s perspective nudged me to give the book another try, years later. I read the first book again, because I’d long forgotten the story. The main characters, Harry, Ronald and Hermione are introduced. They enter Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, to learn the art and science of Magic.

Secrets lurk behind the castle’s umpteen, unseen doors. Ghastly beasts and trolls tread its dark passages. Stuff happens. Exciting but dangerous. Harry and Co. find themselves in the midst of a hullabaloo. They save the day. I loved it! I raced through the second. Then third. And fourth.

In the fourth, a character dies participating in the Triwizard tournament, a competition between the 3 wizarding schools. Murder, in a book written for children. It felt like a deathblow to Innocence. I cried.

The fifth was hard to read. The Dark Lord returns from his parasitic state ( dependent on others for sustenance) to his powerful full-form. He is out to wreak havoc. And kill Harry. Because Harry is destined to kill him (This got me thinking about Lord Krishna’s story). Evil prevails. Happiness is sucked out. Reading it felt like trudging through a post-Apocalyptic Earth. I couldn’t read beyond the first chapter.

But I knew I had to. I craved to know the end. Lord Voldemort’s end. I was determined to read the rest of the series.

So when I drew up a list of things to do before I turn 29 next year, I knew ‘reading the “Harry Potter” series would be one of my top goals. Setting myself a goal and a deadline might help me stay motivated enough to read the whole series without drifting towards other books and losing the continuity, I felt. Also, I dragged my sister along for the ride. We read the books together (but, with miles of distance thrown between us), discussed them and helped one another to keep reading when the reading got tough.

As I read the last book, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”, it felt bittersweet, bitter because I will never be reading the series for the first time again. There won’t be the suspense, the tension that comes with reading a mystery for the first time. It felt sweet because, reading it would help me accomplish a big goal. And accomplish I did. 7 books in less than 5 months. An achievement for me.

Now I want to re-read the series next year. The first time around I read it for the story. But the next time I want to read it deliberately, like a writer, paying close attention to see how the author, J K Rowling, made it work (Is she a wizard herself? Did she wave a wand and have perfect words spew out and link one to another, like beads in a beautiful necklace? The writing surely felt so.)

Of all the characters, I loved Hermione the most (I can’t say that enough!). Her zest for knowledge has inspired me to learn as much as I can about anything that fascinates me (Oh! She’s capable of learning everything about everything! But I’m a real person. With limited time. And limited mental capacity!) Now I don’t just read a book, I study it, which slows my reading, which is totally fine. What’s the big hurry anyway!?

Which book was the best of the lot? I’m still not sure. Each read beautifully, captivated me and kept me reading till the end. But if I had to pick one, I’d choose Book 4, “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”. It stands at the threshold of innocence, beyond which the series gets murkier, cynical, with less humor… In short, more grown-up.

After I re-read the series I will review it once again. And hope that the next review comes close to expressing how I truly feel about this masterpiece.

 

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Letter to Medha

This feature is inspired by Elise at eliseblaha.typepad.com. I plan to write a letter each to Medha and Madhav once every month.

Dear Medha,

Your teacher tells me your writing has improved considerably. You’ve matured, she says, and I take that as a compliment. But have you grown enough, my little girl, to sing a poem of sixteen lines (in a group, of course) at the next special assembly? That is yet to be seen.

Clumps of hair lay around the house a couple of weeks ago. We guessed who the culprit was. Yes, it was You! To pass time, you had been cutting hair. But not yours, your baby brother’s! I’d have laughed at his uneven bangs in the front if the thought of you pricking his scalp or piercing an eye, unintentionally, hadn’t crept up on me! Now you’ve been warned never to try cutting hair, not even yours!

On a lighter note, I have turned you into one of the newest and biggest fans ever of the boy-band “One Direction” by playing their “Best Song ever” once. Now all you want to listen to are their songs.

We celebrated Diwali, the festival of lights last week. You looked forward to it for months. The day before, on Naraka Chaturdashi, as I applied oil to your body I began praying aloud to God to bless you with Knowledge, a kind heart, beauty…. You stopped me with “What about money, mama?”

“Money? What do you need that for?”

“To buy stuff!” Obviously!

I HAD to include that in my prayer.

You and I made a lantern to hang outside the house. I let you do most of the work: cutting, gluing, decorating, etc.

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You beamed with pride at the end product.

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But the firecrackers that were burnt as part of the festival just scared you and your brother. You both whimpered and cried every time there was a bang.

Celebrations involved buying and wearing new clothes, spending time with family, showing gratitude to God for the blessings and preparing and sharing sweets with friends and family. Something we ate did not go down well with us and we ended up with vomiting and diarrhea. You suffered the most, throwing up all night with only a few minutes of break between bouts of puking. But, you know what you blamed it on? My not reading a story to you the night before, because I was too tired to! You said I could stop the vomiting once and for all by just reading you a story. But then I was too exhausted marathon-cleaning your mess and without a wink of sleep to pay heed to your suggestion!

Still….

Love,

Mama.

 

Day in the Life

Last year I participated in Ali Edwards’ “Week in the life” project and had fun documenting the small and big things that happened during a particular week. I’m hoping to take part in it once again this year. On a smaller scale I will be recording a day in our lives every month, in pictures and a bit of journaling. Another fun way of honoring the everyday moments.

October 17th didn’t start off well. Madhav was sick and clingy.

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About 6ml of Crocin and a spoon of Pippalyasava later, he began moving around by himself and played with his colored markers (Thank you Madhi for your gift, even though it hardly serves the purpose it was intended to!). He himself came up with a new game with those markers; he tops his tiny fingers with their caps!P1090020

Not sure whether the English medicine or the Ayurvedic did the magic, but in no time Madhav became his usual, chirpy self.

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As he played, I read “The Firestarter Sessions” for L&R Book Club on my Samsung tablet and jotted down copious amount of notes, right on my tablet. Love LOVE my Samsung Note 8.0 tablet! I think you know that by now!P1090026

After his breakfast, Madhav napped. Prasad and I headed out to the temple. We try to visit the beautiful Hanuman temple every Friday. (Benefits of living with our in-laws in India: We can visit temples whenever we want plus we can leave the kids with the in-laws and enjoy a ride on Prasad’s Royal Enfield, just the 2 of us!)

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P1090013At the temple, all I could think of and pray for was my friend, whom I met (online) after a very long time.

Then it was time for me to work on a post. My friend, Seema wanted my opinion on E-reading Vs. Reading from printed books. Books- a topic I’m so passionate about; A line or two would not do justice to her query, I felt. As I wrote my reply I was in a flow and couldn’t stop myself. It felt post-worthy. After a lot of tweaking, I published it.

P1090018(Can you spot the crack on my laptop screen? I bet you can! That happened because Madhav pushed it off the table!)

Then it was time to pick Medha up from school. P1090029I was on a high after having posted in my blog, so I cooked a rich Vegatable Biryani with a side of Capsicum Salan.

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I believe if I’m Happy, I can make everyone else happy!

As usual, we headed to the park in the evening, where the kids had an awesome time playing and I passed time chatting with the other moms.

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E-books Vs. printed books

I love the smell of a book, old or new, like any other book-lover I know. I love the sight of a thick hard-back, the illustration on the jacket. I love to lose myself in it’s pages, a pencil in one hand, to underline or scribble, and a steaming cup of masala chai in another.

Nothing uplifts my mood as easily as walking the aisle between shelves brimming with books in a library or a bookstore. Nothing satisfies me as much as watching the pile of books I’ve already read  outgrow the pile I’m yet to lay my hands on.

I had always been a staunch supporter of printed books over E-books. I never gave in to the lure of fancy hand-held devices. When Prasad encouraged me to read digital newspapers or buy e-books, I acted deaf. I ignored his arguments supporting e-reading. “I’ll buy used books if money is the issue”, I retorted.

I called myself ancient, a romantic fool. The fact is, I was scared. Yes, I truly, seriously, from the depths of my heart feared new technology. Gizmos and Gadgets freaked me out. They come with their own language – coded, cryptic, undecipherable; They need to be attended to with care; Plus, they are super-expensive.

No matter what my inhibitions, Prasad bought me a Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 for my birthday anyhow. This one has a magnetic pen attached to it; He wished to encourage the writer in me.

It is so portable I began carrying it around everywhere. I wrote whenever and wherever I could. But I always read from physical books. I did have the Kindle reader app installed but hardly ever used it.

Then, for another birthday, Prasad gifted me the whole set of Harry Potter books from Pottermore. Yup, E-BOOKS! ” I dream of you becoming a great author one day.”his message read. Of-course I HAD to give e-book-reading a try! And now I’m a convert.

Here I have listed a bunch of pros and cons of E-reading.

Pros:

1. I can read at night on my bed without having to turn ON the light and disturbing my family’s sleep.

2. Kindle, the reading app, lets me adjust the light setting, text color or background color of the book so my reading experience isn’t painful.

3. A number of e-books can be downloaded for free. Right now I’m reading “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen, a free e-book.

Also, there are free children’s books. I always download a few before we head out, to read to my kids on long drives.

4. There are books I yearn to read but which aren’t easily available for purchase in India like the one I’m reading for my book club – The Firestarter Sessions. With Kindle I just order an e-book from Amazon so I don’t have to worry about shipping charges.

5. When I come across a word I can’t comprehend I just highlight it and ta-da, it’s meaning and usage appears. Kindle also allows me to highlight my favorite quotes or make notes as I read.

6. Books add to baggage weight while traveling, so I simply carry my tablet, which lets me read or even jot down all my travel experiences on one device.

7. It isn’t as difficult to figure out as I feared it would be.

I don’t know which device is better for reading: a Kindle E-reader that is solely dedicated to reading or a tablet that has other features apart from e-reading. My guess is any device should do as long as it has the Kindle app downloaded.

Cons:

1. When you have a number of books at your fingertips, you tend to jump a lot from one to another without finishing any. Wielding a bit of self-discipline should help in that case.

2. E-readers are expensive compared to physical books. But if you read a lot and buy books all the time (like I do. I hardly ever buy anything else for myself.) then investing in a tablet or an e-reader might be a good idea.

3. It’s a bummer if you get the itch to read something but your reader’s battery is down or it has decided to take a vacation of its own, when you’re traveling.

4. Hand-held devices are so cool, the kids will want to hold or play with them all the time. I only have educational games installed on mine, so I don’t mind if they insist upon playing. But E-readers like Kindle paper-white are built for reading only; I don’t think kids would be as interested in them.

All the above points mentioned are just my opinion. Anybody who’s deciding whether to buy an e-reader or not should make their own wise choice. All I’m saying is just give this new experience a try before you totally dismiss it as NOT your cup of tea, which I did for a long long time.

A book is a fount of knowledge and pleasure, no matter what form it takes. But if you still enjoy the feeling of a book in your hand and not a gadget, then I say, forget everything I mentioned above and just go with it. Reading should be fun, not a punishment.

(This post was prompted as a reply to my dear friend and soul-sister, Seema’s question. Thanks dear.)

Letter to Medha

This feature is inspired by Elise at eliseblaha.typepad.com. I plan to write a letter each to Medha and Madhav once every month.

Dear Medha,
You know a lot more people here than I do. You go along with your grandparents to every social event they get invited to. When I, occasionally, attend any, we are swarmed with people I have never seen before, who come to talk, not to me, but you. You break into a BIG smile that can totally melt any heart! You are even familiar with the doormen and waiters who work at some of the places you frequent. You are a socialite through and through.

When you aren’t at school or attending a party, you’re to be found at JustBooks. It’s a private library that has a good collection of readers and board books apart from the usual fiction and non-fiction for adults. JustBooks also provides us with a place to hang out on sunny afternoons or during the holidays, as there are no play areas or public libraries around for kids to spend time at, when it is too hot to play at the park.

You sit at the kids’ table flipping through books or assembling pieces of puzzle. I let you choose a book for yourself and another for your brother. You always go for Barbie books or books about princesses, and listen attentively through about 50 pages of text and illustrations as I read to you. That never fails to amaze me. Your monkey brain can’t concentrate on school stuff for more than 5 minutes!

Still, you are much better at letters and numbers than you were at the beginning of school year. And you show interest in learning them, which is way more important to me than what you’re learning. After the Dasara holidays you were thrilled to be back at school and when I asked why you were so keen, you said you like going to school “because I get knowledge there”!

Love,

Mama.