Thursday, July 26, 2007

Harry Potter 7 Sucks (Succinct, eh?)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows?
No. Try Harry Potter and the Deadly Hollows. (the depth in the plot is astonishingly hollow)

If you think this is bad writing (which it most undoubtedly is), i suggest you read the seventh installment of the Harry Potter series, also called,
Crappy Crapper and the Craply Crap-lows.
Farty Farter and the Farty Fartows, or
Harry Potter and the oh-my-god-this-book-sucks-so-much-it-should-either-replace-Linda Lovelace-or-be-the-face-of-Whisper.

You get the hint. Subtlety has never been my thing.
(Referring to excrement is, one would think)
(But, that's for another day)

Now, this book.
The most awaited book in all of known human history. And rightly so. Not for a moment do i grudge JK Rowling the fame she has achieved, or the anticipation which was associated with her last creation in the series.
The place she told us about, the people she introduced us to, the impossible magical things/actions she brought forth to us seemed close to our hearts, seemed terribly enjoyable, and most importantly seemed believable. So much so, if somebody told me Hogwarts exists in some far corner of Northern England, i would believe him, and lament my not getting an envelope addressed to me in green ink, delivered by a tawny owl. I would.

In all my fairly extensive reading of fiction in English, it is rare that I have really, really liked characters enough to claim that I have figured that character out. Franny from Franny and Zooey was one such.
The only other such character was Professor Dumbledore; the character exuded so much aura, so much positivity, so much sureness. It is my firm belief that Dumbledore was the best character JK created.
His character being reduced to a shadow of his actual self, and casting doubts on his impeccably infallible moral fibre is the stuff literary hara-kiri is made of. This one, being one of the many reasons why I think this book was not written by JK, and was in fact ghostwritten by Madonna.

(Aside : skip if you don't have the time.
My love for the series, like most things, has an intimate personal angle. I was 11 when Harry was 11, 12 when he was 12, and so on. People have variously described me as scrawny, very thin for my age; and my hair as jet black, ALWAYS unkempt and long; also, that I have an almost pathological urge to pick fights with stupid teachers. As any Harry Potter fan worth his uppu will tell you, these very adjectives have been used in relation with our boy Harry.
So yes, I assumed that I was Harry Potter. Oh come on, don't laugh. I am sure you had weirder delusions.
Aside to an aside : I sulked for a week when this stupid little Caucasian boy called Daniel Radcliffe was chosen to play Harry. But then consoled myself, blaming it on racially discriminating, culturally intolerant Britain.)

So now, hark all,

Reasons why I think The Book was ghostwritten by Madonna -

1. The book lacks imagination.

JK did not have a specific style to speak of, but what she did have was the ability to draw her reader into a world that seemed as impossible as it was believable. And all that, because a great part of her cerebral cortex was devoted to storytelling abilities. The mere fact that she has an age-independent fan following of millions is testimony to her incredible imagination that has surprised and stunned us book after book. This element of surprise, making us read with jaws hitting the floor is conspicuous by its very lamentable absence in this edition.

2. Everything CANNOT be a chance escape.

The Wedding, Escape from the Ministry of Magic, Escape from Gringott's, Escape from The Malfoy Manor.
Agreed Murphy rules over only us Muggles, and that Harry lives in a magical world, but come on, cut us some slack. Probability was a possibility JK never considered while writing the book. The probability here being Harry and his cronies going wrong, especially when the odds of that happening were astronomically high.
Also, by chance, there happens to be a secret passage from the Room of Requirements to Hog's Head, which by chance is also where Aberforth Dumbledore works, who by chance has bought the Dual Mirror from Mundungus Fletcher, who by chance would have flicked it from Harry.
Oh. My. God.

3. Blimey, what's with the Polyjuice Potion eh?

The whole concept of this Polyjuice Potion in the second and fourth books seemed neat, alright. Very skillfully used. The flipside to this book is of course that it is used with so much impunity that one wonders if water is the new Polyjuice Potion.
A classic example of imagination doing an Atacama, or Madonna calling the shots.

4. Expelliarmus sucks. So does Stupefy.

What Avada Kedavra is to The Dark Lord, Expelliarmus is to The Boy Who Lived. You have GOT to be kidding me, specially so when he has already done this Expelliarmus thingy in the fourth book, and if Voldy is the sly thing that we have believed him to be, he must have learnt his lessons.
Like an equally disgruntled friend put it, "To claim that a spell as elemenatary as Expelliarmus to be the signature spell of the boy who was destined to bring about the Dark Lord's fall, is asking too much of our imagination's credulity". And i could not agree more.

5. Characters no. Caricatures yes.

Dumbledore wore the cursed ring because "it was a mistake; i was being a fool". Huh?
Dumbledore collaborated with Grimmelwald because "I was young and foolish". HUH?
If establishing ole Albus as human was what she was angling for, she made a mistake, this Rowling. Especially when it is indelibly etched on our minds that Dumbledore was the one reassuring character, the one element of clarity, the one pair of deft hands that unravels thread by thread, every questionable consequence.
The very woman who created Dumbledore for me, also undid him for me.
I am very, very disappointed.

Snape. Severus Snape.
Why did Dumbledore believe in Snape as much as he did? Not explained.
And to assert that Snape's unwavering, never-ending love for Lily was the sole reason he risked his life to protect Harry, especially when half of Harry's chromosomes were a contribution of James, a figure he hated more than is physically possible, seems too much of a stretch to be deemed plausible.
And of course, as JK is wont to, he dies a maha lame death as well.

Ron Weasley. Always a caricature; never liked the character. This time, was deplorably depicted.

Sybil Trelawney. A character I rather liked. Her weirdness, her quirks, all of it. More so, because Emma Thompson added a little something to her character. And this woman Trelawney, who has devoted all her life to Divination, throws her treasured crystal balls in the end at the Death Eaters. How much more abysmally could one destroy characters, like literally?

The Dark Lord aka Tom Marvolo Riddle aka Voldemort.
He could well be called The Snivelling Mouse.
Just where was the terror he invoked, the kind that had me peeing in my pants, when he came to life at the end of the fourth book? Just where?

6. Dude, where's my explanation?

Sirius Black goes Behind the Veil, and is pronounced dead. (Nobody died a less eventful death) Luna Lovegood says, she can speak to her mother from beyond the veil. Where and when did that happen between Harry and Sirius?

In the King's Cross chapter, what is the wriggling creature seen under the chair? Is it the phoenix, or Voldemort, or a poisoned mouse dying?

Aberforth, our man at Hog's Head. Just HOW did he get into Hogsmeade, especially when Death Eaters have made it their backyard? Did they let him go scotfree, because he gave them some goats for otherworldly pleasures?

Explain the Death Stick. When Ole Dumbly dies, his wand is not snapped, contrary to wizarding tradition. But when Voldy breaks his tomb open, there is a wand, which is mistaken to be the Death Stick. Whose wand was it? How do the events on the tower correlate with everything else that happens later on?
I have my theories, as do all of you. But which is the right one?
(This is Harry Potter, and NOT 2001: A Space Odyssey)

What about the Giant troops that Hagrid goes to recruit?
Where is the French contingent with Madame Maxime?
What the fuck is Grawp doing in the book, anyway?
Where were the Trolls and other beastly creatures that The Order was afraid Voldemort would recruit?
Answer answer answer?

7. Who stole your Chekhov's gun?

"could ever have been friends with Gellert Grindelwald. I think her mind’s going, personally!
Lots of love, Lily"

“Just in case they’re --- busy --- and you get the chance ---“
“Kill the snake?”
“Kill the snake,” Harry repeated.
“All right, Harry. You’re okay, are you?”
“I’m fine. Thanks, Neville.”

This woman is great at foregrounding, she is. But fair ladies and dear gentlemen, read the above extracts, and hit your heads against the nearest wall, in exasperation.

The first passage was the torn part of the letter Lily had written. While the first part was shown to us, we expected deadly secrets in the other part, which we guessed was the reason why it was stolen in the first place. But turns out, no. Snivelly Snape flicks it because it had his Lily's autograph. Aargh.
Wipe your greasy parting with that love parchment, chump.

The second passage, a rather innocuous piece of conversation. Instructing a hitherto dudhead dufus to get rid of a deadly snake, which happens to be Voldemort's pet, and oh, which also happens to be one of the Horcruxes. And guess what, he does!
(Madonna, definitely.)

8. Mumbo-jumbo.

Things of convenience.
Room of Requirements.
Elf magic (which works in mysterious ways beyond human comprehension) moonlighting as deus ex machina.
About Harry being able to see what Voldemort is up to. This little window to The Dark Lord's creepy mind seems like the silliest explanation she has come up with to give Harry a sense of what to do next. Did Voldemort not use this window to his favour, when he tricked Harry into the Ministry of Magic?
Did JK forget her own creation of the whole Occlumency concept? Or that Voldemort was a master Legilimens?

Ron spoke Parseltongue by trial and error to open the Chamber of Secrets, as he had heard the intonations when Harry spoke the tongue. And as one would expect, it worked!

(I wonder. Just why didn't Petrificus totalus work when i tried it on a nag of a classmate then? After all, i have read all about it since the past seven years)

(The woman was definitely on wild mushrooms, grown with liberal usage of lead and mercury)

9. The Amar-Akbar-Anthony finish. Taaliyan, taaliyan, taaliyan.

Madonna got together with Manmohan Desai, Prakash Mehra, David Dhawan and Johnny Lever (for good measure) to write the climax. So, they came up with a Bollywoodesque twist to the plot.

Everybody comes out to fight.
There are comic interludes as fights are happening. There, the David Dhawan touch, unmistakeable.
You know, situations where during the climax, a comedian makes a fool of a thug, while sprightly background music happens. (Think Andaz Apna Apna, or Hum Hain Raahi Pyaar Ke)
Yess, like that.
Wah, wah, kwak-thoo.

The power of the Maa. (There, our man Manmohan.)
Molly Weasley can't take it anymore. Instead of Accio-ing woks and saucepans, she Accio-s magic she hasn't used since her first puerperium and knocks off Bellatrix Lestrange (that dreaded Death Eater who breathes Avada Kedavra), like she was no more than a gnome that came in the way of her gummyboots, while on a leisurely arthritic walk in her backyard.

*and now all hold breath for the top reason why this book sucks ass*


What WAS that epilogue all about?
Joanne Kathleen Rowling, just WHAT were you thinking?

Harry Potter, the boy wizard, is 36 and a father of three? With the children being called James, Lily, and oh-my-god Albus Severus? (At this point, i could not hold it. Projectile vomiting. Damn, my monitor still shows stains)
(I cannot stop thinking of Harry as a middle aged man, with graying temples, a potbelly, foul English mouth and a bad gas problem.)

Why did you do it, woman richer than the queen?
Why did you ruin Harry Potter for me thus?
Where was the magic?
Where were you?

Was it the money? Was it Madonna? Was it the mushrooms? Was it the movies? (Because, your writing seemed like you were writing a screenplay, never a story)

I am deeply disappointed. Why, it shows.
I am affected enough to write a 2000 word article while i am in a busy posting (Medicine).
After endless discussions with friends that think very similarly, I still cannot come up with an explanation for your undoing of Harry Potter.

To undo the undoing, you had better come up with an eighth book, with the characters not beyond 18 years of age, and with a preface whose header reads, "Blimey, i screwed up".

Until such a time, we live in hope, and pretend, despite all the media hyperbole, that the seventh book wasn't released at all.
Ah, the hope.

For D, who hated the book too, but never shied away from discussing it for hours on end despite all the masochism involved,
and Rani Rosie, who probably hated it the most, and is currently (fervently) performing cleansing rituals to remove any last traces of the abomination that was the book, from her rather Stupefy-ed brain.
Love you guys.

Sunday, July 1, 2007


Have you ever known the feeling when you want to do something for somebody so bad that it hurts, but you just cannot?
Have you ever felt so inadequate that it makes you want to cry in helplessness?
Have you ever been in a place when people around you feel hopeless, but you cannot come up with anything to console them?

I have.
Since the past couple of weeks.

I am posted in pediatrics these days. And at times, i am depressed.
Why? Because,
Nothing in medical education prepares us to tell vulnerable parents that their child, the one sleeping on the bed rather blissfully, might not make it until long.
Nothing in all the extensive training braces us enough to stand the grief of a mother (who works 14 hours a day as a coolie, for a less than hand-to-mouth existence) who is told that her child will not survive unless she went through a surgery that costs 6 lakhs of rupees, a sum of money she cannot even imagine there being.
And nothing, absolutely nothing can make us strong enough to answer the question parents dread we would answer in the negative : "Is there any hope, at all?"

One understands that by choosing medicine we have chosen a path that requires us to be a lot stronger than most people our age. But it remains that we are just 21 year olds, trying to pass exams, going through lives as complicated/mundane/hormone-driven as any 21 year olds', and that we do not have any answers.
We might have cut open a dead body, but that's just where our bravery ends.
We might look dapper in white coats with expensive stethoscopes, but that's just where our being doctors ends.

A few days ago, i spoke to a woman whose son had been admitted in the hospital. The son was a cherubic 3 year old with cerebral palsy, the fault perhaps of a local daai, who took too long to deliver the baby, or whoever else's. But one thing is certain, the child had cerebral palsy. A fairly common condition in the wards, and sometimes very crippling.
This particular child had a global developmental delay, meaning all aspects of his development were either retarded or absent. A truth the mother has grown accustomed to be oblivious to. She says the child looks at her, turns his head toward sounds she makes, and smiles from ear to ear when spoken to.
The reason this story is throat-gulp inducing is because all of it is impossible.
The child has cortical blindness, his brains cannot read the images brought by his eyes.
The child cannot hear any sound, let alone those the mother makes. He merely turns his head hither and thither, acknowledging a world only he lives in, a world not inhabited by even this woman who has given her all for this baby, her only one, for the past three years.

What do you tell her when she asks you, "He is alright, isn't he?"
Do you tell her that the apple of her eye does not have the eyes to see you, or the mind to recognize you, ever? Do you tell her this and hope to have the courage to console her?
You don't.
We don't, either.
We say, "Please talk to senior doctors, we are just students", and whisk away from the place to find a strong pillar to punch our clenched fists against. Not because we are incapable of helping the child medically, but because we are incapable of even saying words that would comfort her, albeit momentarily.

Worse is a visit to the neonatal ICU, where little babies weighing as little as 900 grams, looking no larger than the palm of your hand, struggle it out with their small lungs, failing hearts and tightly clenched fists, praying in their own languages, 'please god, please, i promise i will be a good boy'.
With a hundred tubes sticking out all over their bodies, synchronized beep-beeps are all they have for company with the beeps more often than not, counting down their final breaths and heartbeats.

And you merely tap at the glass cabin that is their home,
and feel helpless.

This is a phase every medical student goes through, i guess. This is the stuff hospital dramas on TV are made of, since forever. Only, this is the only thing they get close to showing the truth about.

Over time, we get refractory to this whole phenomenon, i am told. It amuses, or perhaps angers some of my non-medical friends when i sometimes talk of death and illness in a matter-of-fact manner. It angers me, in retrospect, when i think of myself having become thus, where illness is a case to be taken, and death, a figure on the register. But this is the only way i know of being. The system has not prepared me, or any of my friends to deal with situations like these.
Death, to us is cessation of cardiopulmonary activity and non-reactive pupils, as opposed to it being a bereavement and loss of livelihood to an entire family.

If depersonalizing oneself is what it takes to make it as a successful doctor, then may be i will not be one. For, i still feel sad for a woman of 40, whose only chance of being a mother counts its last few minutes on an ICU bed.
I am not saying others do not feel sorry for her. They do, in all likelihood. But won't talk about it, because talking about it makes people think they are vulnerable. And "sissy". And that's anathema, but of course.

This post might seem a little too dramatic and serious, especially as it comes right after a feature on bombshells and thunderthighs. But telling this was essential, to me.
Until such a time as medical science progresses to a state where every patient is cured, we can only do one thing. Hope, and pray. (To a god whose existence, in the wake of all this, seems more than debatable.)

But then, that is all we an do.
Pray for the little children, and their families.
As i am sure you will all.