Haji Public School is no Hogwarts, yet Kulsum Bano Bhat, a 12-year-old in the Doda school, experienced one such magical moment straight out of the fictional world J K Rowling created in her Harry Potter series.
On April 26, Kulsum’s teacher, Priya, had put up a tweet with a photograph of Kulsum’s essay, in which the 12-year-old had written, “I am not inspired by J K Rowling only because she writes well but also because she has faced many difficulties but didn’t give up.”
The director of the school, Sabbah Haji, while retweeting the teacher’s tweet, tagged Rowling and extended her an invitation to visit Doda to meet Kulsum, saying the girl, “a first generation English learner from the Himalayas would like to meet you someday. So come visit us at #HajiPublicSchool”.
Please can you send me Kulsum’s full name by DM? I’d love to send her something.
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) April 26, 2018
Later that day, Rowling surprised the school with a reply to Haji’s tweet, asking for Kulsum’s details to be able to “send her something”. The reply from the author of the best-selling series left Kulsum in disbelief, and everyone at school elated.
“Sabbah ma’am told me that J K Rowling had seen my essay and that she had replied. I am so happy. If I get to meet J K Rowling, I will tell her she is wonderful.”
After Rowling’s response to her tweet, Sabbah Haji replied, “Shoutout to the very gracious J K Rowling. This tweet framed for ever in our school hallway.”
Kulsum, one of four children of a farmer couple in Breswana, attends the non-profit school in Doda with her younger brother. “My brother is in Class III in the same school. I speak in English with him at home… in school, we all have to speak only in English,” she says, speaking from Breswana in Doda on Sabbah Haji’s phone. She speaks in slow, carefully constructed sentences as she goes on to talk of her love for the Harry Potter series.
Now in Class 7, Kulsum says she began reading English books while in Class 2 with help from her teachers and started with Enid Blyton’s Noddy before immersing herself in Rowling’s world of wizards and flying brooms.
Of the four Harry Potter books she has read, her favourite, she says, is Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. She has begun watching the Harry Potter movie series as well. “Hermoine is my favourite character, she is intelligent,” says Kulsum, adding, “If there was one spell I could do, it would be Wingardium Leviosa (the levitation charm)”.
“(Rowling’s) books make me happy. Whenever something makes me upset, I immerse myself in the wizard world and it always makes me feel better,” she says, adding that over the years, she has read up about the author and watched her videos on YouTube. “Reading about her life gave me confidence that whenever we are in trouble, we can get up and be better again, just like she did in her life,” says Kulsum, who hopes to be a “poet, a writer and a singer” some day.
Kulsum also wrote in her essay, “May Allah bless JK Rowling and also give her a long life so that when I grow up, I get to meet her.”
If she ever got a chance, what would she ask Rowling? “I will ask her how she imagined Hogwarts and the wizard world,” she says.