The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Every bit the boy next door
A young reader with a coveted copy on the day of the launch at a city bookstore

The response to our Time to talk question ‘Is Harry a hero or is Pottermania all hype'’ was passionate in its defence of the wizard-in-training we all know and love. We need a little bit of Harry, and the magic he brings, in all our lives. Here are the first few letters, with many more to follow:

• In a world repeatedly being torn apart by the Voldemorts of this day, where nations are being beaten and caught as the prized snitch, and where no defence is proving to be enough against the dark arts, Harry Potter is neither a hero nor a product of hype. He is not meant to be worshipped as a hero. In Harry, Rowling creates a fellow human being, who represents an urge to survive, and help others survive — an urge present in all of us. His drawbacks increase his credibility and help him become a real-life friend. His victory over Voldemort isn’t a cakewalk, and is accomplished not with the aid of super-human intelligence, or striking heroism. He wins with a bit of love, a bit of loyalty, a bit of vengeance, some amount of luck, and of course, as Dumbledore says, his ability to choose between what is right and what is easy.

Harry is not the picture of perfection as, let’s say, anyone from Blyton’s Fatty to the ever-present Holmes. He falters at examinations, is a genius of a rule-breaker, doesn’t ever get a top grade in homework, and values friendship and hanging out. And haven’t we been able to identify with him' What is hype' Are we talking of the midnight queues, and Potter parties' Doesn’t that take us away from the basic reality' The reality of the relevance of Harry and Hogwarts in today’s world' There is a craze, no doubt, that drives children to Potter, but that is because they have never been able to identify with a character in so many respects, in the history of children’s fiction. Feluda is an idol, the Find-Outers or Famous Five are nice friends, but Harry teaches a lot and yet remains the boy next door. The wand-waving in this context is secondary.

Harry the hero, or Harry the hype, whatever it is, Harry will have to be put through the test of time. But till then, let him fight the Slytherins and the Dark Lord. Let us not go berserk over a party, let us not throw the book away, let us learn what we can. And we, too, must fight by his side. Because in the world today, as power continues to cloud vision, there is a Voldemort inside all of us.

Ranjana Das

• The Harry Potter series is a beautiful creation, and deserves all the success that it has achieved. Rowling may not be a Tolkien, but her creation is good enough to stand the test of time, and find a place in people’s hearts. It might be a “children’s book”, yet it is one of the best you’ll ever read. Don’t go by what the critics say; read the book to judge it. Yes, there is MAJOR hype, but it is the content that has led to it. Remember, you cannot fool kids for too long with mere publicity stunts!

For a change, let’s appreciate something for how good it is. Always dismissing anything that is a commercial success, denying that it is a work of art is wrong. Harry Potter is genuinely good, and there is no denying that.

Kanak Gupta,
A Potter fan to the core

• Due credit should be given to J.K. Rowling for creating a character liked equally by readers of all ages. Harry may get the support of his friends Hermione and Ron, but at the end of the day, he himself has to fight the odds to defeat evil. So, in this regard, Harry is no less than a hero. His boyish charm and humane qualities make him a delightful everyday hero. His huge fan following and the craze he causes can only be proof of this.

Pratyay Banerjee,
Class XII, Patha Bhavan

• It isn’t either all hype or just hero worship for Harry ‘never-make-a-mistake’ Potter (who, thankfully, acted less superhuman in the fifth book). The addiction is pure and strong, but it is so for the stories Rowling weaves. Fans can identify with the characters, they can live the situations. Pottermania isn’t hype; it’s life — complete with ups and downs!

Adwaita Das

• That Potter is just marketing hype and that people buy it simply out of curiosity are some of the allegations levelled by critics. But most of them never have, and claim they never will, read a Harry Potter book. Judgments based on others’ views are not needed.

Name not given


Battle of biz brains

• For the Facches (1st year students) at the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta (IIMC), it was time to show off funda in finance, merit in marketing and strength in strategic issues to their seniors and announce their arrival at the hallowed turf.

Kautilya ’03, the annual consulting event, organised by the IIMC Consulting Club and sponsored by Bangalore-based Erasmic Consulting this year, was a huge hit with students queuing up to register for the event. The campus was abuzz with activity and the excitement and energy levels were contagious.

The Consulting Club customised the event’s layout to test the all-round consulting aptitude in the current crop of first-year students. And the response — with over 200 students logging in and close to 70 teams fiercely fighting it out for over four hours on July 16 — made it a huge hit on the Joka campus.

Prodigon, comprising Subrangshu, Sushant and Sushil, emerged winners in the most admired company game, while Arthshastra, with Abhinava, Shashi and Vibhash, knocked others out in the business strategy game. Not only analytical skills, the event also acknowledged creativity. The ‘Wise & the Otherwise’ and ‘White collar, blue collar and the brains in the khadi kurta’ were adjudged the two most creative names.


Malavika Mitra shows students a few kathak steps at the Spicmacay convention. Picture by Aranya Sen

Art for all

• The state convention of Spicmacay was held on July 19 at Mahadevi Birla Girls High School, with students from a number of school chapters pouring in. Special guest Malavika Mitra performed a breathtaking recital in kathak, taking time to explain the nuances to the uninitiated.

Anubhuti, a presentation on Pandit Bhimsen Joshi and other maestros, helped the audience understand their art that much better. Spicmacay tries to imbibe love for our own culture among the youth, who have a leaning towards the “fast life”. It was decided at the convention that Virasat, the annual festival of the arts organised by Spicmacay, will be held in the second half of September.

— Soma Dey
Mahadevi Birla Girls High School


Question mark

• The Assembly of God Church School hosted the first-ever Patton Mark Buntain Memorial Quiz, dedicated to the memory of its founder, Dr. D. Mark Buntain. Held at the Mark Buntain Education Centre of the school’s Park Street campus, the event saw 33 schools put up 102 teams on July 18.

The 1,000-strong crowd was kept entertained by quizmaster Barry O’Brien. The guest list included names like Sanjay Budhia, managing director, Patton, Sister Cyril, principal of Loreto Day School, Sealdah, footballer P.K. Banerjee, Sabyasachi Chakraborty and educator Neil O’Brien.

The quiz, based on India, saw a fierce battle in the elimination round. Eight schools were selected to rough it out to the end. Ballygunge Siksha Sadan was the only girls’ team, facing opponents from Don Bosco Park Circus, St James’, St Xavier’s, St Thomas’ Boys, Vivekananda Mission, Birla High and the hosts.

Solomon Wong, head of administration of the Assembly of God Church Group of Schools, made a presentation on Mark Buntain who, in 1964, started the school in a structure that was no bigger than a tent. His other ventures were the Mission of Mercy Hospital next door and the open kitchens for the homeless, which feed 12,000 a day.

Eight final rounds were not enough to decide the winner. A tie-breaker between the top three schools ended in St James’ carrying home the Champion’s Trophy, followed by St Xavier’s Collegiate School and the Assembly of God Church.

— Madhumita Das
Class XII, St Thomas’ Girls School

• On July 18, HelpAge India organised a regional inter-school quiz at the State Youth Centre, before an audience of the inhabitants of an old-age home in Tollygunge. Schools like Lakshmipat Singhania Academy, M.P. Birla, Ashok Hall and St James signed up for the event, battling it out through the tough prelims. Six teams qualified for the finals. Shubhojit of the band Cactus conducted the quiz, which saw Ashok Hall beating M.P. Birla to the winner’s trophy.

—Nihar Jain,
Class IX, Lakshmipat Singhania Academy


Bard takes wing

• After last year’s musical interlude, the British Council School Drama Festival is back, this time, with the Bard himself. In its silver jubilee year, As You’ll Like It will showcase the skill of 17 schools with their renditions of Shakespeare’s works.

Almost 30 schools sent in entries for this year’s fest, of which the chosen 17 will start their fortnight-long workshops on Wednesday. This year, Jacqui O’Hanlon and Rachel Gould, both from Royal National Theatre, Kunal Padhi of Padatik and Ujjal Kar, looking after the technical aspects, will groom the school groups for the finals on August 2 and 3.

This year’s selection includes La Martiniere for Boys and Girls, Modern High, Birla High School for Boys and Girls, Army Public School, Sri Aurobindo Institute of Education, St Xavier’s, G.D. Birla Centre for Education, Calcutta International School, Vivekananda Mission School, St James’, St Thomas’ Church School, Don Bosco, Loreto House, Calcutta Girls and St John’s Diocesan.

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