How you too can nearly, almost, probably become a Jedi Knight
In a time far, far away called the 90's, a kid growing up in an internet-devoid Bangladesh found a book on a shelf in a cousin's house. It was a darkly painted cover like an 80's rock album, slightly dusty, pages yellowy despite being a rather new book. And it smelled like, well, pages. You know that paper bound aroma. It's a smell that has the power to tell entire stories when you grow up, find an old book and take a whiff again.
The book cover showed a painting of two hands clasped around a lit up sword. Glowing, fizzing with electrifying intent, ready to burn through the pages. A lightsaber. I was that kid and I did not know it then, but in a few weeks every broom, plastic scale, rolled up newspaper or ratty broken branch was about to become a lightsaber in my hands.
The book was The Return of The Jedi (Del Rey, 1983)--the third of the trilogy. What I did not know is that I had started from the end of the series without a care in the world because… lightsabers. My English vocabulary was just starting off from Thundercats on Friday mornings. But I persevered. I needed to read that book. See, on the cover it stated that it had a "Fabulous 8 page color insert". Fabulous it was. This was eight pages of movie stills from the most epic Star Wars movie. I didn't know who Han Solo was, but R2D2 stole my 10-year-old heart. Then there was Princess Leia and her headphone-style hairdo. So retro and yet so futuristic.
I was hooked like a Sith Lord on power converters. It took me a month to read that concise book that was an adaptation of a movie. And then I read it a few times more till the pages became dog-eared. Wouldn't a movie have been an easier fix? We had something called video rental shops. These were shady small establishments smelling of incense and housing shelves full of potentially soul destroying labels glued onto black VHS cassettes. Also, they did not keep "old" movies from 1983 in stock. Amitabh Bachchan was a bigger draw in the Dhaka of the early 90's.
But Star Wars captured my imagination like nothing else. Maybe it was the idea of space travel, or the iconic characters and their unique personalities. Or perhaps the fact that you could drop a lightsaber vertically downward and it might potentially poke a hole through to Australia. Reading that book opened up a whole new world to me. It was more than just a movie adaptation–it was a portal to a galaxy far, far away. I devoured every Star Wars book I could get my hands on from then on, and they helped me to understand why it is such a great story.
At its core, Star Wars is a classic tale of underdogs taking on a powerful enemy. It's a story of hope and perseverance, of standing up for what's right even when the odds are against you. Much like the Rebels fighting the Empire or me facing my music teacher at school. This teacher could make direct lethal contact using a chalk from 20 feet. And for a kid growing up in a time before smartphones and the internet, it was a world of endless possibilities.
As I grew up and saved up much of my lunch money, I discovered that the Star Wars universe was much more expansive than I ever could have imagined. There were comics, animated series, and even movies. Some of the better picks when it came to reading Star Wars included the Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zahn and the X-Wing series by Michael A. Stackpole. But no matter where you started, the message of Star Wars remained the same: take risks, but trust your gut. I haven't quite mastered that advice since I regularly eat street food, much to the morning after-dismay of my gut. But I hope to eventually get there. After all, it usually takes around 20 years to become a Jedi Knight.
As a cultural phenomenon, Star Wars has had a lasting impact on popular culture since the release of the first film in 1978. It has spawned a vast array of merchandise, from action figures to clothing, to kitchen appliances. And while the franchise has had its ups and downs over the years, it has continued to captivate audiences of all ages and backgrounds.
One of the reasons why Star Wars is so beloved is its ability to transport the audience to another world. It has a rich and complex mythology, with its own unique languages, planets, and creatures. It's a universe that feels both familiar and completely foreign at the same time. And as a kid, it was a world I could escape to whenever I needed a break from reality.
But Star Wars is more than just escapism. It has always tackled big ideas, such as the battle between good and evil, the power of redemption, and the importance of friendship and family. These themes resonate with audiences of all ages, and it is one of the reasons why the franchise has remained relevant for over four decades. This is a recurring theme even in the much maligned solo Solo movie.
As a grownup with two kids of my own, I love watching them play with lightsabers and droids, knowing that they too are experiencing the magic of Star Wars amidst the screaming. And on May the 4th, I'm reminded of how this story has impacted my life and countless others around the world.
In a world where it's easy to feel powerless, Star Wars reminds us that anyone can make a difference. Whether you're a Jedi Knight or just a kid with a book, you have the power to shape the world around you. It continues to inspire us to dream big and reach for the stars. At the very least, roll up a newspaper or pick up a stick and challenge someone to a Jedi duel.
Ehsanur Raza Ronny is the Deputy Features Editor at The Daily Star.