VIEW: Harry Potter and Bilawal —Elf Habib - Monday, October 25, 2010

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The efficiency and relevance of the younger leaders versus the elderly echelons have been extensively debated by researchers and analysts. There is a growing concern about the eclipsing influence of the youth as an engine of economic and social advancement

Millions of readers across the globe have been captivated by the thrill, sweep and appeal of J K Rowling’s seven volume saga based on the struggle and sacrifices, vision and strategies of a dedicated team of youth headed by Harry Potter. The books have already sold over 400 million copies, been rendered into 70 languages, and made into a sextet of the largest earning movies. Its theme and thrust have been analysed for various motifs, including the portrayal of the racial and terrorist threats faced by British life and culture. Yet the most avid readers in Pakistan would certainly feel the theme is almost equally relevant to the trends tearing Pakistani culture apart. The plot ingeniously avoids real human characters, and is set in a wizarding British community that, despite being unknown and invisible to its common folk, inhabits and thrives in its streets, cities, mansions and manors, operating its own schools, shops, hospitals, prisons, espionage and government apparatus. It revolves around a ruthless arch wizard Lord Voldemort, determined to destroy the peace, ethos and dreams of society and enforce the rule of a pure blood select breed of his followers. The hopes of deliverance, despite the dedication of highly seasoned veteran enthusiasts and crusaders in the movement, are pinned on Harry Potter, a school kid, whose destiny is believed to be intertwined with the usurper. Harry’s parents were murdered by Voldemort during his infancy and a strange magical scar was inflicted on his own forehead.

Pakistan, almost similarly, is perennially faced with the forces of Voldemort manifested in the recurring bouts of dark devilish dictatorships. The generals’ rule, like the interregnum in the series, also periodically recedes, resorting to covert manipulation for eventual return. The ephemeral relief from dictatorship is vividly comparable to the transitory departure of Voldemort to some other land to recharge his batteries for a far deadlier onslaught. Even more striking is the extent of his stifling omniscient espionage, creating a creeping dread that merely mentioning his name entails terrible consequences, necessitating to refer him only as the Dark Lord. His agents have contrived to infiltrate the ministries and underground movements including the Hogwarts, the highest exclusive institution of the wizards and the most strategic centre of the leading stalwarts of the struggle. The ministers and the highest mandarins are either oblivious or quiescent about his intrusion and subversions until the threat is exposed by Potter. In Pakistan, also interestingly, an equally euphemistic surrogate establishment and not the actual perpetrators are held responsible for the interference and interruption. Harry is also excoriated, maligned and hounded for encroaching into the ministry and for his psychosomatic campaign to create chaos and scare by stirring up the dread of an illusionary conspiracy. Agents of the establishment similarly spread into almost every sphere around us creating complacency about the impending threat yet ruining the reputation of the elected representative to ensure an ubiquitous disenchantment. The relentless elimination of dissidents by death eaters may be likened to the devastation wrought by terrorists prowling as the deadliest legacy of dictatorship.

Still, the most stunning analogy lies in the hopes being reposed in the youth which in Pakistan may be symbolised by Bilawal, studying, incidentally like Potter, also at a British institution. The confidence in Potter had evolved through a prophesy about his destiny and reinforced by his uncanny perception or intuition in presaging the manipulations of the Dreaded Lord and his talent and magical prowess to vanquish them. Convergence of hopes on Harry may be a symbolism of the promise, power and onus on the youth to shatter the yoke that strangulated their elders. These hopes may be justified by their newer and sharper insight, immense energy, resilience and an innate characteristic yearning to alter the ethos inherited by them. The efficiency and relevance of the younger leaders versus the elderly echelons have been extensively debated by researchers and analysts. There is a growing concern about the eclipsing influence of the youth as an engine of economic and social advancement. Science fiction like ‘Star Trek’ also signalled this problem. The failure of several communist states has been often, at least partially, also ascribed to their frail gerontocracies.

But prominence of the youth has been equally questioned. Shujaat Hussain, for instance, berated Bilawal for being “a toddler in the lap”. Yet he embodies the promise and prophesy (read inheritance) of the most popular national party. Like a scar marked on Harry’s forehead, he has been carrying the scars of death inflicted by dark lords not only on his mother but also of his grandpa and two maternal uncles. The scar on Harry’s forehead, even if viewed in isolation from its magical attributes, reminds of the need to neuter the perpetrators of these tragedies. Bilawal, like Harry, with destiny wrapped around him, may attract a youthful team fired with the fervid passion of avengers and reformers, but would have to pursue his mission with the most arduous struggle and meticulous strategies. Harry’s ordeal ranged from the painful sufferings, detentions at uncle’s home, at school and a gruelling quest of the seven Horcruxes cunningly devised by the Dark Lord by inserting multiple layers of deceit and defence to ensure his immortality and avert any threat against his life. These Horcruxes, reminiscent of the ancient wizards stashing away different bits of their lives in remote, disparate, inconceivable and ferociously impregnable objects, obliterated the pursuer’s will, energy, courage and enthusiasm to reach and dismantle them. Harry, however, with a marvellous perseverance, power and sagacity, dismantled these defences before slaughtering Voldemort. The Horcruxes may be compared to the mammoth inroads and tentacles of the establishment created in our body politic to perpetuate its dominance. So Bilawal, also despite his unique ancestral and democratic aura and ambience around him, would have to carve his niche for real leadership. His approach to garner a genuine popular appeal and trust, unlike his father’s, must be more explicit, transparent, charismatic and less clouded and encumbered by doubts and compromises. Our persistent failures to sweep the Voldemort and death eaters that darkened our lives and dreams have certainly bequeathed new challenges for our emerging youth like Bilawal.

The writer is an academic and freelance columnist. He can be reached at habibpbu@yahoo

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