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Harry Potter magic hits bookstores

Last updated on: July 21, 2007 10:52 IST

5:30 am

You wake up with a jolt, your head hurting as if Lord Voldemort has been trying to pry it open. It's still dark outside.

As you walk groggily down the stairs, a small voice at the back of your mind says, 'This is madness.'

You feel the way a certain young fictional wizard felt, when he heard about platform 9 ¾ for the first time -- convinced it was a joke.

Outside, Mumbai is whirring into action, slowly. The milkman is readying his sachets. The sweeper is brushing his teeth, broom in hand. The birds have realised it's their time to sing -- maybe the only time they can be heard in the city of dreams and big money.

You reach a mall in the western suburb of Andheri. Even the most eager mall-rat would be asleep now, you mutter to yourself, shaking your head at the foolishness of it all.

And then you enter.

Bam!

It's like you have walked through the invisible barrier and arrived at the platform from where the Hogwarts Express chugs its way to the most famous wizarding school in the world.

There are at least 150 people standing in line in front of the bookstore Landmark. From toddlers with parents, to tweens with parents, to teens with friends to dreadlocked cool dudes with stuff written on their t-shirts you wouldn't want your child to know, ever.

They are all here, living, talking, coffee-drinking, photo-clicking proof of the publishing phenomenon called Harry Potter; to pick up their copies of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the seventh and final instalment of a series of books that has transfigured its creator from a former waitress to a global celebrity richer than the queen of England.

There's 7-year-old Vihaan Hingorani, student of class 3 F -- he mentions his section 'F' with so much enthusiasm you don't feel like leaving that out -- with a pointed-hat-and-red-hair-wig cap. He could pass off as Harry's best friend Ron Weasley in first year.

Has he read any of the books? Vihaan shakes his head with a toothy grin. He has just seen the movies.

Then why is he here? "Mom wants the book."

Meanwhile, ever eager television cameras and microphones are everywhere, the young reporters squealing like a gang of first years in Hogwarts. A boy who has been made to dress up like Harry Potter emerges from the store. There are excited whoops and screams.

A store representative emerges and tells the crowd that the books have arrived. The crowd makes the kind of sound that was first heard when the world was struck by another British phenomenon, the Beatles.

You join the line. Hoping to get your copy of the book fast, and get home and give your head a break. But there are voices all around you.

"Do you think Dumbledore is not dead?"

"…Mamma I told you 5:45 was too late! Look so many people are in front of us…"

"..Dude, I dunno how she's going to do it, but I think Dumbledore is gonna come back."

"…Do you know many people die in the book?"

"The New York Times leaked the review…[sic]"

Then there is another roar – the store is open, the line begins moving.

After half an hour more of trudging along, you emerge with the book, eager to know.

Turns out one of the leaked copies on the Internet was a genuine one. Wow. It's a take no prisoners kind of book, with the first death before page 60. 

And as you glide down the escalator, someone is whistling the theme from the Harry Potter movies. And whistling pretty well. It reverberates in the empty mall, almost magical, because you can't see who is whistling.

And then you walk out into the Muggle world, where the financial capital of Mumbai is just waking up.

A Correspondent in Mumbai