I am an unabashed fan of Harry Potter. Not so much of a fan (my priorities have, er... changed now) to leave aside all other things and keep reading till I finish the book, but enough of a fan to prebook, buy and read as soon as possible. The narration is tight, the stories riveting and the characters are immensely loveable.
Today I had lunch at a relative’s. A few of us were discussing excitedly about ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’. (No, I still have not finished it. I have been terribly busy these couple of weeks and let R read it first.) An Uncle, G, heard our conversation and said “You would not read with so much interest if ‘baalanaagamma’ or ‘paataalabhairavi’ were released, you want only a western Harry Potter”. A couple of other elders joined in. The youngsters’ voice of protest was drowned in the elders' complaints about how today's kids loved "foreign" books and foreign everything. All this stemming from an innocent discussion about Harry Potter.
Let me make one thing clear first. I am all for preservation of Indian culture. Nobody who knows me can say that I do not read Indian books. I am pretty well-informed about our puranic and vedic lore. And it really irritates me when some people, writers included, rant that the HP series is not good, just hyped by the media. G was of the opinion that the sole reason for the popularity of HP was because of the publicity by the media. I think that the media-hype will work for the first volume and probably even the second. Beyond that, it is solely the writer's capability and the books' quality that makes the book popular or not popular.
I think I have complained elsewhere in my blog, that kids hardly read these days. They are so full of video games and the TV, that reading books other than their textbooks is somewhere at the end of their list of love-to-do things. This is if reading does find a place at all, in such a list. In this scenario, the one series that has taken many kids and adults back to reading is the Harry Potter series. They have made reading 'cool'. The books, even if they can be read very easily, are well-thought out. And since they are pretty voluminous, I think they tend to make other big books less intimidating, in the long run.
True, we have other, better books even in India. But let us not grudge Rowling her well-deserved popularity. She has given us a wonderful series of books; let's enjoy them!