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Harry Potter in Taliban land

Updated August 09, 2013

Success is the name of this formula: To kick adversity, the best way forward is a kick in the teeth. Now, don’t take me literally! In Pakistan, little is known about it. One is not surprised, given the superfluity of daft statements mouthed by leaders of all brands. Prefacing ‘God willing’ in each of their empty sentences, they think they can purge the Taliban menace. For them these two words are equally potent as Harry Potter’s magic wand. The ‘Fortress of Islam’, famously coined by our army chief General Kayani, under whose watch, the Taliban are the vile Lord Voldemorts can be destroyed. Not so. Wreaking havoc, slaughtering thousands, the Taliban battle to control Kayani and his ‘Fortress of Islam’ and create a new dominant race that will ‘destroy’ America.

Harry Potter can do it. This is no fantasy. It’s a shake and bake recipe for a future J.K. Rowling’s story plot that can earn billions of dollars. And unlike Rowling, the wannabe author does not even need a paper and pen handy to scribble the storyline as happened to the young woman travelling back on a train from Manchester to London. “Perhaps, if I had slowed down the ideas to capture them on paper, I might have stifled some of them”, she says when describing the magic moment of her inspiration for her Harry Potter series.

Grabbing a toilet paper and borrowing a pen from somewhere, she plotted not one book but its seven sequels during the four-hour journey. “Harry Potter just sort of strolled into my head. He arrived very fully formed. It was as though I was meeting him for the first time,” says J.K. Rowling while looking back to the day in the train 23 years ago.

The single-mom, living in a cold, cramped flat in London’s welfare housing with an infant to care would go to a public toilet to warm the baby and use diapers that lay around as she could not afford to buy this item. When the baby slept, the mother wrote.

Adversity then is the chief ingredient that can fetch you billions. Walt Disney, the icon of animation and creator of Disneyland, the theme park that pulls millions of visitors each year, says, “all the adversity I've had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me ... You may not realise it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”

The kick in the teeth is the secret formula. So pack your back bag, don an Afghan-style blue shuttlecock burqa or a beard if you’re a man and on a wing and a prayer, board the bus for Waziristan. Worry not. It’s not in the boondocks. It’s right around the corner where civilisation ends. On the way you’ll meet hunkered down military men at the several check posts worried sick they can be the Taliban’s next targets.

Alternately, if you’re lily-livered and faint at the sight of blood, worry not again. You’re in good company of role models who will light up your way to the billions awaiting you. But first you must climb up the totem pole of power to reach the pinnacle and end up at the billionaire’s club.

There, you’ll run into this rarefied species who escaped getting their teeth knocked out and still bagged billions. Easy. When they sat on seats of power, their filthy paws fingered the national till fishing out tokens to cash at the super-secret banks in Zurich and Geneva. Once their factotums set up their accounts, they were good to go. Without leaving the safety of their palaces, they merely hit the ‘send’ money and voila the stolen millions reached the other end through a wire!

This is even better than Harry Potter’s magic wand! Stashed in Swiss bank vaults are like the late Indonesian President Suharto, late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, Pakistan’s Zardari and Sharifs, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, Tunisia’s Ben Ali, Libya’s Gaddafi, and Yemen’s Abdullah Saleh, to name a few. The World Bank estimates that these corrupt regimes under their leadership steals $20–$40 billion from the national kitty each year.

On the other side of the divide we have this struggling author. Her life was a mess – a failed marriage, no job, and a kid to take care of. “Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential,” Rowling told a graduating class at Harvard. “I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything than what I was, and began to direct all my energy to finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one area where I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realised … I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

Rowling went on to write two more books, which topped the best-seller list in New York Times.

Last October when Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey plunging it in darkness for full one week, leaving us cold, shivering and without power, I spent my days reading Rowling’s debut novel The Casual Vacancy. It was a page turner despite its grim reality of life lived by the working class people and their miserable existence. It was not much of a read for someone already enveloped in freezing darkness, and yet I could not put the book down. It had to be read to the end. Rowling’s portrayal of the outliers was chillingly accurate with details only a person who went through the experience could pen.

Her latest book The Cuckoo's Calling is a 2013 crime fiction novel published under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. Now that Rowling’s identity is outed thanks to her lawyer who told his wife’s best friend about the real author who in turn told The Sunday Times, Rowling took him to court and won the case. “I had hoped to keep this secret a little longer because being Robert Galbraith has been such a liberating experience. It has been wonderful to publish without hype or expectation and pure pleasure to get feedback under a different name.”

Now, on to another bestseller that just won’t go away. It’s again a British young woman whose fertile imagination has the detainees at Guantanamo all excited. The sado-masochistic best seller 50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James has sold more than 70 million copies of her erotic romance trilogy of novels. It is a “popular reading among high-value detainees at Camp Seven”, officials told a visiting congressional delegation. “They've read the entire series in English,” said Congressman Moran, the head of the delegation. “I guess there’s not much going on. These guys are going nowhere, so what the hell.”

Become E.L. James and Rowling to write a sequel to 50 Shades of Grey and to make it really pop toss in chunks of Harry Potter’s magic that will seize the Taliban straddling General Kayani’s ‘Fortress of Islam’ who will put down their killing machines to read the book. If their brothers and heroes at far off Guantanamo prison are lapping up 50 Shades of Grey, why not the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan?