Troll in the Dungeon

This post does not constitute photographs. It’s a little something I wrote a few months back and conveniently forgot. I did not intend to publish it on the blog until tonight when I was telling a friend about the importance on July 31 in the HP universe, and realised that I need to publish it and today! Read on, and please excuse any grammatical errors. I’m more than certain there are many; I never edited the piece.

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I just finished watching the four-part documentary on the making of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows by Morgan Matthews, and it feels as if someone’s wrenching my heart out. I still remember the day when my much older cousin picked the 12-year old me from home begrudgingly, and took me all the way across the city for the movie. I remember sitting there with ten thousand questions in my head and not asking one because bhai and I, we never really talked. He’s married now, we still don’t talk.

I remember the fated afternoon the following year, it was raining quite hard, monsoons had reached Delhi… I was at my best friend’s place and we ordered the DVD of Chamber of Secrets. I recall being enthralled at the prospect but feeling stupid because I didn’t understand much English back then. When the movie ended, I asked her who Voldemort was. There are distinct memories of a smack in the small of my head. That was the day I returned home with the first two books in the series. Funnily enough, I had already read the fifth book. Twice.

Before Harry Potter, my memories mostly constitute instances that would essentially brand me a ‘loser’ in middle-school-speak. In a convent school, I could not speak English, did not like novels, was suffering from a major inferiority complex, had issues with my parents, was dealing with two molesters and a body changing rapidly. School was hell, home was a prison, my only salvation was the HP universe that harboured and shielded me from all the hate and self-loathing I was slowly growing accustomed to.

We lived in a tiny house, two 10×10 rooms for a family of four (including an infant); the concepts of drawing room, living room, and private bedroom were entirely alien. There was a third room though. The kitchen: another 10×10 box. There were no multiple options for dinner. It was always pickles, pulses and chapatis; salad, occasionally. I hardly ever got the time to read during the day. Relatives from the village were staying in our already crowded tiny little dwelling: there was never any peace, forget privacy and solitude. By sharp 10 pm, everyone would retire to their beds and I would sneak into the kitchen. Mom left my dinner out on the counter. I kept the fifth book next to the jar of sugar.

I’d pick it up, sit cross-legged on the floor, eat the cold dinner and read Order of the Phoenix. I connected instantly with Harry’s teen rage. I would read the book in my van to and from the school. I would read it in the lunch break; I would often lie to mom and tell her I was going out to play (physical activity was stressed upon. I was/am fat) but instead sneak to the top-floor of the building. I’d sit on the floor of the corridor between the two unoccupied flats; I had for company lizards, cockroaches and an occasional rat, not to mention loads of dust. Under the light of a little torchlight, I’d made sure I read the book.

A journey that began thus ends every day. It ended when I finished the seventh book for the first time, then when I finished it for the second time, and third time… It ended when I watched the last movie. This time, I took my kid brother along. (Yes, he asks questions and yes, he gets answers.) It ended when I watched the Queen’s speech on the final premiere. It ended when I watched her cry upon visiting the house where it all began in the documentary on her life (J K Rowling: A Year in the Life).

It ended again tonight when I watched Matthews’ behind-the-scenes documentary. It ended when Dan cried like a baby. I understand his pain. If he has grown up with Harry, then so have I and countless others. For us, Harry Potter is not just a book, a series, a movie, a phenomenon, a brand. Harry Potter is life.

And three days ago, I began a new journey when my kid brother, now eleven, and reading the Philosopher’s Stone, messaged me at midnight, “Troll in the Dungeon”.

“The stories we love best do live in us forever. So, whether you come back by the page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there for you.”

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