CliffsNotes: “After all this time”, there’s a story from the Harry Potter universe. That’s not counting the many Pottermore missives and Twitter posts from JK Rowling over the last nine years. Harry Potter And The Cursed Child: Parts One And Two is written by JK Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne. The fat book is a Special Rehearsal Edition of the script of the play that premiered in London on July 30.

Cursed Child opens at the close – taking off from where the last book of the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, ended – at King’s Cross, with Potter seeing off his children on to the Hogwarts Express.

So far, we had been lulled into believing that 19 years on, everything is alright, because The Chosen One’s scar hasn’t prickled for a while. But then this isn’t exactly Harry’s story. The wand passes on to Albus Severus Potter, Harry and Ginny Weasley’s middle son, who is buckling under the burden of his heavyweight names and surname. Things get worse when he gets sorted into Slytherin at Hogwarts. Not only that, he ends up befriending Scorpius Malfoy, that’s right, the son of Draco Malfoy. Throw in a “twenty-something determined-woman” called Delphi who convinces them to go time travelling for a seemingly noble cause and that’s Cursed Child sans-spoilers for you. But the two young wizards discover that time travelling comes with serious repercussions, as they stumble through one horrifying alternative reality after another.

Get a taste: The Cursed Child is ultimately a script for the stage, and at times it leaves you cold or at least wanting for more, such as knowing what the characters are thinking or feeling. Instead you have narratives such as “An OVER-ATTENTIVE WIZARDS begins to circle them” or “ALBUS hesitates a moment, and then his face strengthens”. Okay then. Of course, the good thing is that for many children and adults, this will be a lovely way to read a play script and understand its subtleties. And going by the reviews, it seems like the play is quite spectacular, and that is the whole purpose of this story.

Of course, The Cursed Child will take place pride beside our first edition Potter books, and that’s because it has its moments. Moments of nostalgia, humour, and poignancy. And magic. For Potterheads, it’s one more chance to hop aboard the Hogwarts Express, revisit some of their favourite characters, and silently cheer as Albus and Scorpius take us back into the magical world of witches and wizards. This is a story to be cherished, because it reveals Harry’s vulnerability as a parent and reminds us once again, the power of love and friendship. Like in this scene where Harry talks to Professor Dumbledore’s portrait, who is barely paint and memory.

“DUMBLEDORE: A difficult thing. I imagine, to watch your child in pain.

HARRY looks up at DUMBLEDORE, and then down at ALBUS.

HARRY: I’ve never asked how you felt about me naming him after you, have I?

DUMBLEDORE: Candidly, Harry, it seemed a great weight to place upon the poor boy.

HARRY: I need your help. I need your advice. Bane says Albus is in danger. How do I protect my son, Dumbledore?

DUMBLEDORE: You ask me, of all people, how to protect a boy in terrible danger? We cannot protect the young from harm. Pain must and will come.

HARRY: So I’m supposed to stand and watch?

DUMBLEDORE: No. you’re supposed to teach him how to meet life.

HARRY: How? He won’t listen.

DUMBLEDORE: Perhaps he’s waiting for you to see him clearly.”

Professor Dumbledore, still able to turn a phrase, and how.

Author 101: You don’t need a Rememberall to recollect that The Cursed Child is not written by Rowling alone. There are two more writers involved, director John Tiffany and playwright Jack Thorne. Tiffany directed Once, for which he won awards on both Broadway and the West End. Thorne writes across theatre, film, TV, and radio.

Fun Fact: This one’s the exact opposite of a fun fact. In one of the alternate realities that pop up on Albus and Scorpius’ time travelling sojourns, Ron Weasley ends up marrying Padma Patil, and for some inexplicable reason, they choose to name their son, Panju. What we can conclude is that with an unfortunate name like that, it is Panju who must be the Cursed Child. Seriously, Albus Severus Potter may be named after two headmasters of Hogwarts and is the son of The Boy Who Lived, but at least he’s not named Panju.

Similar reads: The Harry Potter (seven books) series by JK Rowling and The Hogwarts Library Set: Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them: From The World Of Harry Potter,

Quidditch Through The Ages: From The World Of Harry Potter, and The Tales Of Beedle The Bard by JK Rowling.


New Harry Potter book is both fan fiction and ode to magical what-ifs

JK Rowling’s ‘Cursed Child’ is really about the fathers and sons who struggle with the imperfections in their relationships.

Of course, it opens at the close.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows ended on a comforting, if somewhat pat, epilogue – nineteen years after the Battle of Hogwarts, The Boy Who Lived is untroubled by his scar.

Harry Potter is weaving his way through Platform Nine and Three-Quarters, along with wife Ginny Weasley and daughter Lily, to see his sons James and Albus on to the Hogwarts Express.

Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger’s daughter Rose is about to begin school at Hogwarts, along with Albus Severus Potter.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Parts One and Two takes it from there.

Written by JK Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne, the book is a Special Rehearsal Edition of the script of the play, which premiered in London on July 30.

Albus’ worst fears come true when the Potter boy finds himself sorted into Slytherin, not Gryffindor as expected.

Unlike his father, he doesn’t instantly love Hogwarts, but like him, Albus makes a fast, seemingly unusual, friendship with the amiable nerd-fighter Scorpius Malfoy. That’s right, the son of Draco Malfoy, who in turn has his own personal battles to fight.

While Albus is dogged by the burden of his surname, Harry is drowning in paperwork as the head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement and confounded over the complicated relationship he shares with his younger son.

Scorpius and Albus, (slight plot spoiler alert in this para!) set off on a quest, with the aid of a recently-confiscated Time Turner. Things spiral out of control, with possibly disastrous consequences. But Cursed Childis not about this misguided mission.

It’s about an author playing around with the many “what-if” scenarios in her head, exploring the infinite alternative realities that are plausible because of small ripples in time.

Of course, it’s not Rowling’s story alone, perhaps that’s why it feels like reading a piece of well-written fan fiction at times.

Cursed Child is really about the fathers and sons who struggle with the imperfections in their relationships, and the fragility of it. In doing so, it reaffirms some of the values the Harry Potter books stand for – friendship and love.

Through it all, Hermione, who is now the Minister of Magic (raising our flagon of Butterbeer to toast the cleverest witch ever) and Ron who manages Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, stand by their friend.

Hermione is still books and cleverness, but with tons of power to back her, and Ron definitely has some of the better jokes.

Disappointingly, Neville Longbottom doesn’t make much of an appearance, while Draco has made some unexpected life choices.

Professor McGonagall is now the Headmistress at Hogwarts and Professor Dumbledore is barely “paint and memory”, but it doesn’t stop him offering a few memorable turn of phrases. There’s more, but we will #KeepTheSecrets. But what’s with the regretful addition of Panju (you will have to read the book to figure out that one)!

Cursed Child is a play script, and unlike the books, it doesn’t have the vivid imagery of Rowling’s narrative. Of course, the book has its warm, fuzzy, and witty moments – you still get swept away on a tide of emotions. But what comes alive on stage splendidly doesn’t always translate to a script book.

For instance, you don’t know what Harry or Albus are feeling or thinking at all times, making it harder to stay with the characters (though Scorpius is such a dear).

A disconcerting fact for Potterheads, who are used to being in Harry’s mind, apart from Voldemort, of course.

But what’s exciting, as a friend pointed out, is that it will encourage children to read a script, understand the nuances of theatrical writing, and how it translates to performance.

Reading Cursed Child is like going to a school reunion, where after two decades, everyone is familiar but strange at the same time.

The first page of the special rehearsal edition script is a plunge into a pensieve of nostalgia for Potterheads across the globe.

Well-loved phrases leap out, and while they evoke a tug of pleasure for the reader, they are written to elicit happy sighs in the audience.

What Cursed Child does is to revisit the magic of Harry Potter, once again, after all these years.

And in doing so, it unites children and adults with the power of its words, as Dumbledore would say, our most inexhaustible source of magic.

With new Potter book, you have to finally let go of the child Harry

Even Hermione and Ron, the other two main characters, like many of us, have aged and are wiser.


The tension in the air could have been cut with a wand. It was getting close to the magic hour, and we were waiting for the first copies of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Parts One and Two from Hachette.

I was the only journalist alongside book distributors and booksellers on July 31. Gangarams Book Bureau in Bangalore had pre-booking orders of 350, and was expecting to run out during the day.

A manager from Crossword Bookstore was eagerly awaiting the copies, as they had an event at 11.30am, when the books would be officially released in India. At India Books Distributors, the phone didn’t stop ringing, with anxious bookstore owners calling to enquire after their stock.

As we waited, most couldn’t understand the fuss around the new book. As one bookseller put it, “It’s all done, what’s left to say”.

We talked about Cursed Child, and how the script takes up the thread of the story, 19 years on, just where the epilogue of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows had left it.

Suddenly the room erupted into activity. The trucks had arrived, a little later than expected, possibly thanks to the bandh the day before.

People ran, some glued to their phone barking instructions. A big fat truck turned into the parking lot, along with two autorickshaws, all stacked with spanking new copies of Cursed Child.

Phones were whipped out, videos taken of the opening of the first box. A collective sigh of relief was let out.

I grabbed my copy, jumped into a cab and rushed to Lightroom Bookstore, giddy with the smell of a new book, and that too a Potter one.

I reverently touched the cover, bright as the golden Snitch. It was an exuberant feeling, like catching the Snitch during a match perhaps.

I wasn’t the only one. Writer Andaleeb Wajid later told me, “I also smelled it. Touched the cover with my cheek”.

I tremulously read the first page. “Act One, Scene One: King’s Cross”. I sat back, feeling all goose bumpy, the book indeed opened at the close.

That’s all I could read before I stepped into Lightroom, where we were slated to have a Potter party in a few hours

We dashed about setting up a Potions Lab, a Cupboard Under the Stairs corner, and marvelled at the Butterbeer Cupcakes and Pumpkin Spice cake.

The bookstore was transformed into Platform Nine and Three-Quarters on September 1 as children and adults dressed up as witches, wizards, and muggles milled about, got sorted, and shouted quiz answers.

They clutched the copies excitedly and with care – a new story, after all this time. If you could bottle that happiness, Felix Felicis, the liquid luck potion would have had some serious competition.

Later at night, as I curled up with my copy of the Cursed Child, I realised that what The Boy Who Lived has done is to bind children and adults together into a realm of magical words and a love for stories.

Distributors, booksellers, Potterheads, writers, artists, first-time readers had all been gripped by its imagination. It doesn’t matter if the Cursed Child has mixed reviews as a book, or that most muggles will not see the play in its first year, or pretty much ever.

Shinibali Mitra Saigal, who runs Kahani Karnival in Mumbai, pointed out – the three main characters, like many of us, have aged.

Characters, who were familiar as the back of our hands, are recast as they grow older – some wiser, others less changed with the touch of time.

Ron Weasley, we already know, has the beginning of a gut, while Harry and Hermione are entrenched in the daily grind of their jobs. What looked glamorous as a child has suddenly become work. Familiar stuff for most of us.

“It’s also a feeling of loss,” said Mitra Saigal. “Because you have to finally let go of Harry. He is no longer a boy, or a teen. He is now us.”

But nothing dampens the excitement that comes with a new Potter story. Because what matters is revisiting the magic one more time – walking the corridors of Hogwarts, climbing the moving staircases, and reading about the beloved characters again.

As Wajid said, “I’m just happy there was a Harry Potter story to read and I’m alive when it happened.”

Of course, all of this goes back to the creator, JK Rowling. Some claim that there’s too much of Potter out there. Perhaps.

Others may dismiss these spin-offs as hype or clever marketing strategies. But it’s a joy to see her beliefs, so inexorably weaved into her narratives, play out on social media.

When Professor Dumbledore says, “It is our choices Harry, which show what we truly are, far more than our abilities,” he’s only echoing what Rowling stands for.

As Albus and Scorpius turn the Time Turner, it can easily lead to a deliberation of our times as well. Our choices, even the minor ones, impact the events to come.

The prospect of a hideous world governed by dark forces, the cruelties we see around us, and our sinking sense of helplessness, is very much there. The Imperius and the Cruciatus curses reverberate in the muggle world as well, in horrifying ways.

Imperative to think of all of this in a year that has been plagued by Dementors – whether it is the impacts of the unequivocal warming of our planet, the refugee crisis, or the polarisation we are seeing across the world and in India.

Yet, people continue to stand up for their beliefs and their rights.Cursed Child, as writer Maegan Dobson Sippy pointed out, comes as a bright ray during these bleak times, a reminder of friendship, love, justice, and unity.

Magical values that perhaps need reaffirmation. Especially now, when our choices will determine the kind of world, wizard children such as Albus and Scorpius and muggle ones will inherit.

Bake this fragrant rose apple frangipane tart this weekend

Panneerale folded in almond cream makes for a delicate dessert that’s nothing like you’ve ever tasted.

“Panneer,” the fruit vendor said, pointing to a mound of pale green spheres on his cart.
“Guava?” I asked.
“Na, Na, panneer.”


My curiosity got the better of me and I ended up buying a quarter kilo of panneer. Shake the fruit and it sounds hollow, the seed rattling within its core. They were still unripe, so I circulated a photo on Twitter, and suggestions poured in – raw kokum, guava, yellow mangosteen.

It was writer Mahesh Rao who identified the fruit correctly as Syzygium jambosor rose apple. He also told me that in Kannada, the fruit is called “panneer” or “pannerale”. Just then writer Srinath Perur tweeted to say that the fruit is a “delight” and it gets “sweeter and rosier as it ripens”. Clearly, Karnataka-based writers know their fruits.

So I waited for a few days for the jambos to ripen. I sliced open a ripe panneer, and the alluring, delicate fragrance of roses enveloped me. I could only think of folding it with some frangipane or almond cream and baking it as a tart. And that’s exactly what I did. I used a Mary Berry recipe for this. The result was a spongy, crumbly tart, redolent of roses and almonds. (Adapted from


250g- Rose apples

For the base
175g- Digestive biscuits
75g- Butter

For the filling
75g- Butter at room temperature
75g- Fairtrade caster sugar
2- Free range eggs
75g- Ground almonds
1 tsp- Almond extract

For the base
* Melt butter and keep aside.

* Crumble the digestive biscuits in a mixer until they become fine crumbs.

* Add the melted butter and mix well.

* Put the mix into your tart/ pie tin and spread evenly on to the base and the sides.

* Use a steel katori to even out the mixture.

* Place it in the fridge to chill.

For the filling
* Beat the cream, butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

* Add the eggs and beat for a minute.

* Add the ground almonds and almond extract and mix well.

* You can replace the extract with vanilla, but the flavour will be less intense.

Putting together the tart
* Preheat the oven to 180C/ 350F.

* Cut off the ends of the rose apples.

* You can cut thin slices or thin rings.

* Arrange these over the biscuit base.

* Now spoon the almond cream/ frangipane filling on top evenly.

* If you like, you can top it with almond flakes or shredded almonds.

* Bake for 20 minutes or until the frangipane is nutty brown and set.

* Serve warm with ice cream.

– See more at:

Harry Potter casts a new spell on the internet and how

In its new format, Pottermore is more of a site that will keep Potterheads up to date with wondrous news of the wizarding world.pottermore

I have reclaimed my magical name and Hogwarts house – Ravenclaw in case you were wondering – and am pleased to report that I am back on the revamped Pottermore site.

Until now, it was a space where I would slink off during writing breaks to brew a potion (I was usually T for troll), cast a spell (was a little better at that) and unlock secrets from the Harry Potter stories.

But now in its new format, Pottermore is more of a site that will keep Potterheads up to date with news of the wizarding world of Harry Potter.

A voice message from JK Rowling welcomes fans to Pottermore, which she calls her “magical corner of the internet, a place where you can explore her writing, both familiar and new. And where you can read features, articles, and news from the Pottermore team”.

If you’re already a member, then you can retain your user name and house. I was quite tempted to sort myself again, but then I was a little scared that I would get Hufflepuff this time around. So I decided to let sleeping Hippogriffs lie and stayed with fellow house members, Cho Chang and Luna Lovegood.

At Pottermore, you can still revisit the books, along with JK Rowling’s thoughts about the characters, the plot or the setting.

The newest post by the author takes muggles into a previously forbidden world – an exploration of “11 long-established and prestigious wizarding schools worldwide”.

The jade palace of Mahoutokoro is an ancient Japanese school where robes change colour as the wizards grow wiser (or darker). Quite like karate’s many coloured belts, I imagine.

Then there’s Uagadou which is situated in the Mountains of the Moon in Africa. At this largest of all wizarding schools, spells are cast by hand gestures or pointing fingers.

The Brazilian Castelobruxo sounds quite intriguing with its golden rock edifice guarded by the Caipora spirit-beings. Apparently, Peeves is nothing compared to these feisty beings.

If you recall, Bill Weasley had got something nasty in post from a penfriend – turns out it was a Castelobruxo student who was disappointed that his friend couldn’t afford the trip to Brazil to visit him.

The fourth one, Ilvermorny from North America, is yet to be revealed but Rowling’s hinted that smart Potterheads will be able to figure this one out.

I have a few thoughts, but am currently trawling the internet for more ideas. So far we have learnt about seven wizarding schools – including Durmstrang and Beauxbatons – which means we can expect to hear more from Rowling in the future.

Browsing through Pottermore makes you feel like a beetle on a window pane – nudge, nudge Rita Skeeter – and getting a sneak peek into the very busy Potter world.

For instance, we sit far-away-from-London wishing that we had a portkey to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the eighth story that unfurls 19 years later.

We read longingly about the casting of the play – good going there, and the creative process between Rowling, director John Tiffany, and writer Jack Thorne.

Thoughts threaten to overwhelm us, until we need a pensieve to mull over the many strands – how and when will we get to see the play which officially premieres in July, and will the production come to India.

Dementors hover over that thought, after all it’s not like Harry Potter: The Exhibition, the international travelling exhibition has come down here.

There are also updates on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a movie spin-off that will be out in cinemas in November 2016.

Set in 1926 in New York, this is the story of Magizoologist Newt Scamander, the author of the eponymous textbook on the wizarding world’s magical creatures.

Scamander, played by Eddie Redmayne, comes to New York with a suitcase full of magical creatures. And in what sounds like a Pandora twist, the creatures are let loose in New York by mistake.

A new behind-the-scenes preview has just been released and it reveals details about the casting.

Porpentina Goldstein, played by Katherine Waterston; her sister Queenie Goldstein, played by Alison Sudol; and muggle Jacob Kowalski, played by Dan Fogler, come together with Scamander to form an unlikely quartet in this film’s quest.

Colin Farrell plays a powerful MACUSA (Magical Congress of the United States of America) Auror, we are told. In the behind-the-scenes preview, Redmayne says, “This world, it’s been a wonder really.” Yes, we know that.

Harry Potter’s message of inclusion

On February 4, Potterheads will celebrate JK Rowling’s book series by hosting Harry Potter Book Night parties in different parts of the world. Once again, I will sit with my co-host to cut out paper dementors, draw owls on white balloons with a marker, and make fudge flies with chocolates. But more importantly, apart from being a celebration of these fabulous books and fudge, our February gatherings always remind me of a key Patronus message tucked inside the Harry Potter stories: of inclusion and empathy.

In 2014, a study titled The greatest magic of Harry Potter: Reducing prejudice showed the books go a long way in teaching young readers tolerance and compassion. Rowling’s seven-book series constantly shines a light on systems of social hierarchies, like class and caste: there are the privileged magical people, and then there are the others. Muggles are non-magical people and some refer to them as mud-bloods, a filthy word for Muggle-born wizards who have often been ridiculed, tortured, and even killed. Only Pureblood wizards are considered worthy of magic.

Discrimination and prejudice, privilege and merit, inequality and diversity, tolerance and inclusion are an inherent part of our social structure. Yet, we don’t always talk to our children about these issues, and if we do, it’s often framed as something that’s alien to our social fabric. Instances are not contexualised, instead they are viewed as external, far-away phenomena. Children have nascent opinions about what’s right and what’s wrong, and it’s something that has to be nurtured. Especially in our society, with all its complexities. As children grow older, these perceptions, values, beliefs, and attitudes are shaped and solidified by parents, educators, peer groups, and the media they consume (among other things). These become the frameworks within which they’ll go on to interpret people, events, and issues as adults.

Look around us — children’s literature, artefacts, and the visual media are dominated by Hindu mythology and narratives. In comparison, fewer books are published about other folk tales or oral histories of minority communities. Nor do we see that many games, apps or films on these traditions that are equally rich and intricate. In such a scenario, where representation is selective, how do you begin to understand diversity? Most school textbooks are ill-equipped to explain India’s caste system and how it continues to exist in latent and manifested forms. How do you then explain to a young adult what it means that Rohith Vemula, a Dalit scholar, felt forced to commit suicide because of the way society treated him in a city as big and supposedly modern as Hyderabad?

In his suicide letter, Rohith Vemula, wrote, “My birth is my fatal accident. I can never recover from my childhood loneliness. The unappreciated child from my past.” Those words are haunting, as is the rest of the letter. A friend of mine read the note and said that’s how his own childhood feels in hindsight, centred around his identity of being a Dalit. It was like the child didn’t matter, he said, because he grew up in an environment that constantly reinforced discrimination.

As children, we are rarely made aware of our own positions of privilege and as a result, we soak in prejudices — after all, how will we think of examining them if we’re not told prejudice exists or that it’s a topic of discussion? A subtle sneering at the children who play in public parks, or the ones who are “not like us, no” is all it takes sometimes. That difference is always palpable, embossed like an invisible line, whispered in school and college corridors, and even in staff rooms.

To not talk about this inequality, to ignore it, makes us equally culpable. It can only lead to a generation of citizens who would rather not question these complexities, the status quo, or their own source of privilege: caste and class. This further snowballs when it comes to the idea of merit, whether in college, the workplace, or in any other part of our lives.

If by reading a book, children can become more empathetic, then as adults, we can do so much more to encourage them. Maybe start by opening a dialogue. Answer questions. Listen to them with an open mind. Surround them with stories, books, films on inclusion and human rights. And lead by example.

Children are quick on the uptake. In the first Potter book, Draco Malfoy holds out a hand in friendship to Harry, “You’ll soon find out some wizarding families are much better than others, Potter. You don’t want to go making friends with the wrong sort. I can help you there.” Harry didn’t shake his hand.

Bijal Vachharajani writes about education for sustainable development, conservation, and food security. She’s the former editor of Time Out Bengaluru.

Review: Career of Evil

Review: JK Rowling’s Career of Evil keeps the reader guessing

Career of Evil, Rowling’s third Cormoran Strike novel, is an emotionally taut read.

Detective Cormoran Strike and his secretary-turned-partner Robin Ellacott are back for the third time with a case that’s equally bloody and emotional in parts. This time around, the investigative pair is embroiled in a mystery that is pretty personal–someone sends a woman’s severed leg to Robin accompanied by lyrics from a song by the American rock band, Blue Oyster Cult. It’s a chilling message for Strike, given his disability–he was injured and lost a leg in Afghanistan. It’s also clear that someone has a bone to pick with Strike and won’t stop at just a leg. Rather, as you find out from the killer’s perspective, his next target is Robin. What follows is a trip down memory lane for Strike, as he pursues four possible suspects, each with a sinister and bloodthirsty history. In an interview with NPR, JK Rowling, who writes this series under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, said that she read Ted Bundy’s accounts to understand a killer’s perspective and also trawled through forums frequented by men who discuss women in terms of murder and sexual violence.

The suspects are twisted as they come with a long history of violence–Terence ‘Digger’ Malley, a gangster who is known for his body-cutting skills; sociopath Donald Laing who is a British veteran and blames Strike for all his misfortune and problems; Noel Brockbank who has a history of paedophilia and is not quite right in the head; and Jeff Whittaker, a junkie musician who was married to Strike’s mother and tried and acquitted for her murder. They all have one thing in common–they hate Strike. To complicate matters, after their last two cases–The Cuckoo’s Calling and The Silkworm–Strike is kind of famous and he is no longer able to go out and pursue persons of interests as he once could. And with the infamous publicity about the severed leg, Strike and Robin are losing cases and with that money as well. At the same time, Robin is grappling with a tense engagement – her fiance Matthew has always been vocal about his dislike for Strike but now their relationship has taken a turn for the worse. She’s also worried about her position at work – at times Strike calls her a business partner, at others he does everything to shield her from the nastier parts of the business.

For Robin, horrific memories of sexual violence resurface–you find out that she had been raped at a university. Your heart goes out to Robin and Strike, who for a change, shows his vulnerable side, especially with his bias towards his stepfather. You also get a bit closer to understanding the person behind the hulking, impassive facade. On top of all this is Robin’s impending wedding–dresses, flowers and seating arrangements add to the chaos, while both Robin and Strike are trying hard to ignore their feeling for each other. In her acknowledgements, Rowling writes, “I can’t remember ever enjoying writing a novel more than Career of Evil. This is odd, not only on account of the grisly subject matter…” And it shows. The author takes her time building the emotional tension in Career of Evil. At the same time, she lets the tension unwind slowly, following the suspects at an easy pace all across the country, while allowing personal emotions to bubble up to the forefront. Rowling runs through a gamut of bloody and violent crimes–sexual violence, serial killings, drug abuse, and paedophilia, it’s all in there. Yet she takes her time in telling the stories. And because of that, Career of Evil tends to flag a bit. Although it has a compelling and dark storyline, the narrative takes time to pick up, and you tend to lose interest in the middle.


That said, the suspense builds up, and you’re hard-pressed to choose between the suspects. Strike is gunning for Whittaker with obvious reasons, but the others seem equally menacing and they all seem to have had an opportunity. And that’s where the author keeps the reader guessing, making it an immense emotionally taut read. PS: A request for the writer; can we please get Strike to mop up his curry with naan, instead of naan bread next time?

The reviewer is a Bengaluru-based writer.

There’s a bit of magic in the illustrated Harry Potter series

Jim Kay’s attention to detail is a fitting tribute to JK Rowling’s fabulous story.

Over the last few months, Potterheads have been getting email owls from Bloomsbury announcing the launch of an illustrated Harry Potter book series. It was reported that Jim Kay, who won the Kate Greenway Medal for his gothic illustrations of Patrick Ness’ A Monster Calls, has been commissioned to illustrate one of the most popular books of our times. In an interview to The Guardian, Kay said that he reacted to the news with an “explosion of delight, followed instantly by an implosion of brain-freezing terror”. An understandable reaction.

After all, every Potterhead in the Muggle universe has a distinct visceral idea of how the staircases in Hogwarts move, what the chaos on Platform 93/4 looks like on the day the Hogwarts Express leaves for the Best School Ever, and how the castle changes as autumn slips into winter. The world of Harry Potter which was created by JK Rowling some 18 years ago continues to exist in the collective imagination of Muggles across the world.


Given that I own all the Potter books and the spin-offs, a handsome army of figurines, and bits and bobs such as the Elder Wand and the Gryffindor pen, I had told myself sternly that I did not need to buy this book. My imagination was good enough. Further, like all Potterheads, I had already had to contend with the film versions and my opinionated thoughts about the adaptation.

But merely hours after the book launched on October 6, I succumbed to temptation. A shiny copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone has been added to my considerable collection. And I don’t need Veritaserum to admit that I have no regrets. The new book is a coffee table tome (costs like one too), resplendent with colours and quirky characters. A word of warning: If you are planning to tote it around to show it off to your Muggle friends, think again. The book is Hagrid-size.

Also read: Five spells every Indian could learn from Harry Potter

As I opened the book reverently, it took me back to my childhood, to the eighties, when we read beautifully illustrated books from Russia, UK, and Europe. Those books were interspersed with dreamy water colour illustrations sandwiched between the stories. Kay’s book is reminiscent of those classic stories, but with his personal, quirky twists.

The good news is that The Boy Who Lived has green eyes, while Dumbledore has piercing blue eyes. On that happy note, let us reread the beloved tale. Each chapter starts with a detailed illustration which gives the reader an inkling of what’s about to come. In a YouTube video, Kay explains how he even made 3D models to understand how the light would fall before illustrating the final version.

And Merlin’s Beard! The details are what make the book a treat. For instance, he puts the hog in Hogwarts with boar gargoyles on the intricate castle of his imagination. Backgrounds are richly textured, as is the landscape.

The illustrations get richer as Harry steps into the wizarding world. Diagon Alley will make you gasp with delight. This is Harry’s (almost) first glimpse of the wizarding world, and true to Rowling’s prose, the illustration shows a cobbled street that twists and turns with shops piled high with strange wares. Draco Malfoy makes an appearance – pale, pointed face (check) with cold eyes. On his website Kay says that he achieved the slightly unsettling effect using a simple trick – “If you illustrate a person’s eyes perfectly symmetrical, there’s something creepy about their appearance”.

Also read: Why I feel Harry Potter made the world a better place

The Sorting Hat is a wonderful surprise. Rowling described it as patched and frayed, and Kay’s Hat is all of that. But it’s also bright and happy with textured, colourful patches – poles apart from the comparatively surly movie version. On his website, Kay describes the making of the Sorting Hat, “One of the fabrics is from a beautiful book of fabric samples I saw years ago in the Royal Museum, Edinburgh. Never know when you’ll find a use for the little notes you make.”


It’s evident the Kay has drawn Hagrid with much affection. The bearded half-giant sports a skull and bones scarf and has little badges on his coat, an idea that Kay borrowed from his school caretaker. A lot of Kay’s inspiration comes from the world around him – whether it’s strangers he bumps into or people he knows well. Like Rowling, Kay seems to love metaphors and symbols. Dumbledore sits at his desk, choosing a Sherbet Lemon while a praying mantis sits close by. In an interview to Pottermore, Kay said that the mantis, which means prophet, depicts the headmaster’s honesty.


Most of the characters only appear once or twice in the book, which is a bit of a disappointment. Like Oliver Twist, you can’t help but want more. But don’t get your wands into a knot – when you have majestic Norwegian Ridgeback dragons flying across the page and Mountain Trolls thumbing their snouts at you, there’s really not much room for complaint. Wait until you get to Quirrell/Voldemort, the tantalising peek will ensure impatience for the second book to come out soon.

At the back of the book, Rowling says that she was moved profoundly by Kay’s illustrations. The attention to detail, the masterful paintings, and the thoughtful deliberation on the characters, all of it is a fitting tribute to her fabulous story. The illustrated version is something that Madam Pince will guard fervently in her library, and as will us Potterheads.

Why I feel Harry Potter made the world a better place

It’s been 18 years since the first book took the world by the storm, and the magic hasn’t tarnished still.

At the turn of the millennium, it was definitely uncool to be caught reading a children’s books and that too one with bespectacled wizards riding strange beasts on the cover. I ignored the relentless jibes from my friends (yes, you all know who you are) and lost myself in the wizarding world of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I reread the books, watched first days, first shows of the movies, did marathon viewings with friends and spent pots of money on merchandise. Potter and his motley crew saw me through good times and bad.

In happier times, I curled up with a mug of masala chai, wishing it was butterbeer, and laughed and cried with the stories. Even now a figurine of Professor Snape stares at me from the top of my desk, threatening me with detention if I don’t finish this article.

It’s been 18 years since the first book took the world by the storm, and the magic hasn’t tarnished still. I rummaged through my pensieve of memories to revisit why the boy who lived continues to beguile us Potterheads.

Harry Potter was a highly unusual boy in many ways, but: Although Harry Potter is a wizard and the Chosen One, young readers were quick to realise that he’s not that different from them – for starters, he’s got unruly hair that makes him look scruffy and the adults keep wanting him to tidy up, he’s an average student who keeps procrastinating over homework and he feels the same fear of a first Quidditch match or exams as any one of us would when faced with a daunting task. In fact, his best friend Ron Weasley was the sarcastic, funny one and we all know that Hermione Granger was truly the brightest witch of her time.


The biggest battle Potter fights is against prejudice: In July 2014, theJournal of Applied Social Psychology published a study titled, “The Greatest Magic of Harry Potter: Reducing Prejudice”, which revealed that children who read the books were less prejudiced and more open minded towards immigrants and homosexuals. Earlier this month, another message behind the stories spilled into real life when the Harry Potter Alliance, a non-profit initiative led by fans of the books, won a four-year campaign with Warner Bros studio agreeing to make all Harry Potter-branded chocolate Fair Trade or UTZ certified by the end of this year. Clearly, the HPA took JK Rowling’s words to heart – “We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: We have the power to imagine better.”


The books inspired a generation to read: In the year 2000, three years after the first Potter book hit bookshelves, The New York Times Book Reviewannounced that it would print a “separate best-seller list for children’s books… The change is largely in response to the expected demand for the fourth in the Harry Potter series of children’s books, editors at the Book Review said”. JK Rowling’s best-selling series made room for a new brood of children’s books as more and more kids took to reading them. Alas, it also meant we had to suffer certain vampire-related books, but well, we can’t have it all.


It’s all about team spirit: Let’s face it, without Hermione, Harry just wouldn’t have got the philosopher’s stone, entered the chamber of secrets, rescued the prisoner of Azkaban… You get the drift. And then there was Neville Longbottom who had to finish off the last horcrux, Dobby who rescued them all, at (sniff, spoiler alert) great personal peril and Ron, erm… who managed to make us all chuckle.


It’s all about the choices we make: When Dumbledore says, “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities”, it’s reminiscent of how the world – wizarding and muggle – is not just black-and-white. We were all convinced that Snape had it in for Harry, only to be surprised by his goosebump-inducing story, which showed that he was protecting the boy. Tom Riddle was the perfect student but took on the mantle of the Dark Lord with his prejudices and his own fear of death. And Hagrid faced a lot of stigma for being half-giant but is one of the most gentle of the characters in the book series. Except, of course, for his love for Blast-Ended Skrewts, giant, carnivorous spiders and biting books.


Five spells every Indian could learn from Harry Potter

We’re all capable of change, and a bit of magic.

1. On the Right to Education: At the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, magical ability is the only consideration when it comes to admission. And unlike some of our pre-primary schools where admission is based on tests, interviews and fees, Hogwarts has no such daunting admittance parameters. And while many Indian schools struggle with the Right to Education Act by questioning the need for inclusion, Hogwarts’ students come from all sorts of backgrounds. It doesn’t matter if you are “pure-blooded” like Draco Malfoy or Muggle-born like Colin Creevey or Hermione Granger, if you’re magical, then Hogwarts has a place for you. Like at Hogwarts, the RTE may not take away social divisions, but it helps weaken those polarities. Hogwarts, unlike its foreign counterparts such as Durmstrang Institute and Beauxbatons Academy of Magic, wins hands down because of its inclusiveness.

Hermione Granger’s diverse background did not come in the way of her achievements.

2. On ignoring things that are magical: Arthur Weasley once said about muggles, “Bless them, they’ll go to any lengths to ignore magic, even if it’s staring them in the face…” Indian muggles may not have shrinking keys or biting kettles to contend with like the ones in the Potter books, but many of us are guilty of ignoring the magic of nature around us. After all, India’s lush forests, gurgling water bodies and teeming biodiversity are nothing short of magical. Yet, bless us, in this mad rush of what we now call economic security, we often forget that there can be no real, inclusive development without sustainability.

Thestrals are unique mystical creatures visible only to those who had had a close call with death.

3. On purity of birth: One can’t help but agree with Hagrid that Dumbledore is a great man, case in point, when he tells the minister of magic, “… you place too much importance, and you always have done, on the so-called purity of blood! You fail to recognise that it matters not what someone is born, but what they grow up to be!” Wise words for a country whose denizens glean everything about a person by simply asking their surname, their birth place and their caste.

Rubeus Hagrid was a half-giant and that didn’t stop Harry from befriending him.

4. On banning books: In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the ministry of magic is desperately trying to squash the news that Voldemort is back. When Potter gives an interview to the tabloid “The Quibbler” on the subject, the horrid Dolores Umbridge bans students from reading the magazine. Hermione excitedly points out that, “If she could have done one thing to make absolutely sure that every single person in this school will read your interview, it was banning it”. And just like at Hogwarts where everyone ends up reading “The Quibbler”, we have seen hard copies and e-books of Wendy Doniger and Perumal Murugan’s books being bought, distributed and talked about.

Dolores Umbridge’s plan of banning “The Quibbler” backfired big time!

5. On being equal: As more and more of us ensconce ourselves into the ivory towers of gated communities and our own liminal air-conditioned bubbles, we turn up our noses at poverty, abuse our privileges, distance ourselves from the farmers who grow our food and end up doing more damage to our fellow countrymen and the environment. We then complain that the system is messed up, crime is on the rise, our food security is threatened and blah and blah and blah. Take a page from Dumbledore’s book – “Indifference and neglect often do much more damage than outright dislike….We wizards have mistreated and abused our fellows for too long, and we are now reaping our reward”, and then replace wizards with muggles.

No wonder Albus Dumbledore was one of the wisest wizards of all time.