It was the year 2000 and I was living in oblivion in Karachi because nobody knew anything about Harry Potter there then. I was finishing 7th grade and I had no clue what I was in for when my father brought 3 books from a business trip he had taken to London. Throughout childhood we kids got our stash of movies from the HMV store which he visited every year in London. He would buy bestsellers from different movie genres and that's how we grew up as Disney kids. That particular year he walked into a London bookstore and picked up J.K.Rowling's bestseller trilogy that had taken up the stands by storm.
The covers looked cartoonish and I asked what is Harry Potter? - a question the answer to which he clearly did not have except the words "It's a bestseller, the bookstore lady recommended it." Little did I know my world was going to change. But not just yet ...
Since I was unaware of the urgent, mandatory awesomeness that I was denying myself, I kept the books aside. I had exams coming up and I had no time for indulging in the books just yet. So, I waited until summer that came in a couple of months and I waited some more because I was lazy and then I picked up Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban that our father had signed and gifted to me. The two prequels were with my two siblings respectively. As I began reading I hit pause because I figured the first was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. This one was my sister's copy. She hadn't started reading so I did ...
The Boy Who Lived ...
Hmm, judging a book by its cover (which should not be done!) made me feel like it was something Mark Twain? I was thinking I was in for something like Tom Sawyer because that's what I had read the previous year in 6th grade as part of our English Lit. --- WORD --- It was not Tom Sawyer, it was not Huckleberry Finn, it was not Sindbad or Aladdin, or Jason of the Argonauts, or Hercules, or Tarzan or Atreyu from The Neverending Story. It was a different kind of magic on a different level. The book started with peculiar happenings ... cat reading a map, people in cloaks, whisperings, owls flying in broad daylight, shooting stars all over Britain, and a mysterious word about the Potters. I had been a Francine Pascal's Sweet Valley series fanatic and I had always had the curious cat in me. So, all this strange business managed to get my attention and I was hooked to the plot. Little did I know I would never read another Sweet Valley after this because my world was about to change.
Get this ... I hadn't even read the summary of the book before I began reading it *facepalm* so I was awestruck when the tabby cat; sitting on the wall of Number Four Privet Drive of the Dursley's residence all day, turned into Professor McGonagall. Yes, this means I had 'other' theories about people in cloaks collecting together. WHAT??? This book has magic? Like Chronicles of Narnia? I was in mad love with Aslan, Edmund, Lucy, and Prince Caspian. I knew I was going to be glued to the books for the rest of summer. Clearly, baby Harry delivered by the giant Hagrid on a flying motorbike had a legacy - having defeated a supervillain wizard - and I wanted to be a part of his adventures ...
Harry Potter from the Cupboard Under The Stairs was a simple little boy who created his adorable little space in my heart. Immediately, I started feeling the same hate for the Dursleys as I had felt for Cinderella's sisters. I was happy when the Boa Constrictor snake was set loose and Dudley got the biggest scare of his pompous spoiled life. And I was as curious as crazy when the owl post began to arrive. And, when Hagrid broke in an entry and said those magical words "Harry - yer a wizard." I was jumping with joy! What next? They step into a wardrobe and go to Hogwarts? Or will they portal through a portrait on the wall? A hole in the ground?
As the wizarding world sucked me in and I walked through the streets of Diagon Alley, rode the Hogwarts Express at Platform Nine and Three Quarters, and arrived at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry ... I was the happiest girl on the planet.
Catch my drift here ... I was the fat kid in the corner throughout school who was always picked at. I had only one or two friends who connected with me in class. But when I was home; and to myself during summers, I only had books and movies. There was always half a month of summer vacation somewhere in Europe or the US which I enjoyed with family. So, my world of imagination was my only hope. Disney was my only magic. And now ... Harry Potter was a whole new meaning.
By the time Sorcerer's Stone finished, I was best friends with Ron and Hermione, worst of enemies with Draco Malfoy and Lord Voldemort, and Hogwarts was my home.
Of course, you can imagine how quick I read the next two books. That summer of 2000 was the most perfect summer of my life. It felt like I had found friends, I had found my life, my world. Yes ... welcome to the mind of a nerdette. In my disturbed little head there was a niche of magic that kept me going through the bullying, humiliating body issues, and social pressures. I could relate with Harry Potter ... The Boy Who Lived.
The Goblet of Fire was released the same year (2000) and guess who was ready for fangirl action? I was headed to Singapore for the summer with family and once again Dad surprised me with a hardcover copy purchased from Changi International Airport as we boarded the plane for Australia! It was one AWESOME vacation! I spent my time in Australia reading the book (sniffing the pages!) and crying on the flight back to Karachi because Cedric Diggory was murdered!
The next year (2001) I swelled up with excitement as big as the size of Aunt Marge when WB announced the cast for the first Potter movie. Daniel Radcliffe was the perfect little Harry, Rupert Grint was the world's best Ron, and Emma Watson was the perfect Hermione! All my favorite characters from my imagination came to life! I remember how nobody at school had any idea the movie was based on books I had already read!
I read The Order Of The Phoenix (2003) and then lost track of reading the rest of the books because my GCE O and A Levels took the joy out of my life. But I had transformed into a movies fangirl by then! Every summer when we traveled, my eyes were only set on Harry Potter merchandise which had started coming to stores - rare instances - because of the movies. There were no Potterheads in school or even college. So, the fangirling stayed between me and Sara who had become hooked to the books while I was finishing Cambridge!
The book readership in Karachi began flourishing and we got to see a Harry Potter book launch (Half Blood Prince) at a mall carried out by Liberty Books - a licensed distributor. The movies; however, took ages to become available because the country's cinemas still hadn't purchased any Harry Potter movies to play. We were members of a club in Karachi and they had movie nights but they only came as far as Twilight, never Harry Potter. Apparently, people were more interested in watching a vampire love story than the Boy Who Lived! I remember Sara and my brother watched The Order Of The Phoenix on one of our summers in the US because we just happened to be there at the right time. Original DVDs always made it to Pakistan very late, and pirated copies (which are the norm there by the way and not seriously illegal) had horrible prints. When news broke that The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter was going to open in Orlando, FL, I was shattered! It was 2007. Visas were not a problem for us because we were US residents and could go any time but my siblings were going through their GCEs every summer and travel was very cumbersome.
2 years later, we decided to move to the US, and in 2010 - the best thing in the world happened. I moved to the US - my real home! And everything fell into its right place! The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter had opened its gates - as if for us, to welcome us! - and we had moved to Maryland, the East Coast - just there! *tears of joy*
It was Sara's 21st birthday in 2012 when we first visited The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter. The first time - we flew to Orlando and the 3 day trip walking the cobbled stone streets of Hogsmeade, standing before the Hogwarts Express engine, sipping frozen Butterbeer, and riding The Forbidden Journey was too magical to believe for real. I don't remember how many times Sara and I cried tears of happiness when we saw the Hogwarts castle (crying right now!). We were home!
These trips became an annual treat. As our lives were consumed by work and further studies, the annual trips became our escape from the world. But that's another story of dressing and celebrating the Potterhead way.
This is how my story - story of a Potterhead - started.