Mrs. Bajaj was my client’s wife way back in Kano. Mr Bajaj sold completely knocked down bikes (Keke) so before they were known as “kekemarwa,” they were Bajaj bicycles (and tricycles).
One day, I went to his office to discuss business.
The next day, I returned to the office and met Mrs. Bajaj. Mr. Bajaj had passed on the previous night and she was in the office to tidy up all outstanding business, before shutting down for a while to arrange his cremation according to Indian custom.
She looked strong, I saluted her courage.
She was sitting and reading a book while I made small talk. So I asked to know what the book was.
It was the second in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
My eyes grew round like saucers when I read the title. I flipped my hand round my head and snapped my fingers and felt chill run up my spine as I began to look at the woman with “one kain eye”.
You see, I was a “born against” that period. I had become a Christian a long while ago and those were the days when for your Christian faith to stand up to scrutiny, you had to be born anew, and be born against everything that gave a normal human being joy.
1. So, I was born against mini skirts.
2. Born against weave on and hair accessories.
3. Born against makeup and high heeled shoes.
Of course, the brand of Christianity that had unhealthy levels of paranoia about how their congregants dressed and behaved way back when had jumped into overdrive and analyzed Harry Potter shortly after the first book was released in 1997.
One person had read the book (and probably endangered his immortal soul, martyr that he is) discovered that it was all about witchcraft and wizardry, and proceeded to send out long spammy emails on how JK Rowling – the author – was a witch, and Harry Potter was a convenient tool for initiating our children into witchcraft and went further to caution, that just by reading the book, we would be initiated into witchcraft and probably be hell-bound.
Have you ever noticed how Nigerian Christians can vouch more for witches and wizards than they can for God? How they have a healthier fear for the diabolic than they have for their God? How they can do anything not to run foul of black magic and it’s practitioners, but treat the all powerful God as an afterthought?
Anyway, I digress…
So I voiced my concern to Mrs. Bajaj: are you not going to be possessed by the devil? Are you a witch or are you planning to sign up for witchcraft?
What didn’t I ask: are you sure you and Harry Potter did not winch your husband?
She threw her head back and laughed: it’s just fiction my dear, she said. I had exchanged books with her in the past, so she knew I was a fast reader.
“Let’s do it this way,” she suggested, “I’ll give you the book now. I leave for India in a couple of days, finish and return the book tomorrow.”
Ever the rebel and always up for an adventure, I took her up on it and spent a wide-eyed night flipping through the pages of one of the most enthralling pieces of literature I have ever come across. In four hours, I was done with the book, and then I wanted to know what came before. I would have given anything to have been inducted into a witchcraft coven that night, if that would bring me closer to the book one.
I returned the book to Mrs. Bajaj the next day and gushed about how I had enjoyed the book, asking if she had the first book in the series.
Yes she did, but it was in India.
I spent one-month dwelling on that book that I just couldn’t get out of my mind and when Mrs. Bajaj returned from her funeral duties at the end of the month and sent for me, I least expected what came next.
She brought something from India for me, she informed me. I was expecting some funky Indian jewelry or a sari, but when her hand came out clutching a copy of the first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, my heart did cartwheels because my body could not.
Again, that was greedily devoured, and I kept panting for more.
I read that first book so many times, but it never grew old for me and over time, I slowly built up my collection until I had all the books in the set.
While I do not consider myself a rabid Harry Potter fan, I am besotted.
And I realized in a way, that those paranoid Christians at the turn of the millenium were half right about a few things:
1. Harry Potter is witchcraft.
2. It is a bad juju that holds you spell bound as you turn page after exciting page and you realize, that JK Rowling deserves a place in the pantheon of the gods.
The way her mind works and how she connects the minutest details in her first book, to a future event in the seventh, is evidence that some form of black magic goes into the writing.
Keep making magic Ms. Rowlings, for the sort of voodoo you produce with a story line, I come willingly.
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