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Phew! Not so deathly after all

Calcutta, July 21: Yesterday was a sleepless night waiting for the book to begin. Today will be a sleepless night waiting for the book to end.

But by the time Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows has been devoured, the sleep-deprived devotees of the boy wizard will have a smile on their face.

For, like most epic tales told by man, all’s well that ends well.

Deathly Hallows isn’t so deathly after all.

(That is all we can say of the ending to honour all those Pottermaniacs who haven’t reached page 607 of the book that started flying off the city shelves from 6.30am)

The anticipation for the “final, seventh instalment” of the Harry Potter series in which J.K. Rowling “unveils… the answers to the many questions that have been so eagerly awaited” — according to the book’s promo flap — had reached boiling point as a dull, drizzly day dawned on the city.

Muggles with a special affinity for magic milled around bookstores to be the first to grab a copy. By 6am, as the books started arriving at the stores, there were mile-long queues in front of Oxford Bookstore and the Family Book Shop on Park Street.

The first floor of Crossword Bookstore on Elgin Road resembled ‘platform nine and three-quarters’ — from where the Hogwarts Express would leave King’s Cross Station — with over 600 children (and their parents) waiting for their first glimpse of the Bloomsbury book being distributed in India by Penguin.

By 6.20am, the Potter fans were begging for a glimpse of the cover. The books were taken out of their sealed packs to loud applause.

Sharp at 6.30, the first copy of the last Harry Potter sold at Crossword was handed over to Abhinav Agarwal, the first in queue. “This is my birthday gift from my mother. I have been here since 5am. I can’t wait to start reading the book,” smiled the Class VII student of Lakshmipat Singhania Academy, bunking class for the Horcrux cause.

Siddhant Sikaria and Nilesh Jhunjhunwala, Class XI students of Don Bosco Park Circus, had spent the whole night at Crossword, participating in a treasure hunt and also studying for their exams.

“Harry Potter is special. Staying up the night before an examination to lay our hands on a copy of the final book is memorable,” said Siddhant, hailing Rowling as “an absolute genius”.

At Oxford Bookstore, the buzz was all about how the book would end. Is Harry alive, does his scar heal' Is Sirius Black really dead' Who is R.A.B.' Do Hermione and Ron get together… the questions flew thick and fast.

Rishi Bhagat, for one, couldn’t wait to get the answers. “The tension was too much. I must confess I took a peek at the last chapter,” said the 13-year-old student from New Jersey, who wisely chose to stay silent rather than spill the beans in Potter-crazed Oxford.

The leaks on the Net — claiming Harry was alive and well at the end of Deathly Hallows — had left the likes of Ankita Misra breathing easy but no less eager to read the book in one sitting. “I know that Harry is alive, but I have already told my mother that I am not going to sleep till I finish the book,” announced the Class IV student of Delhi Public School.

By the end of the longest day at city bookstores, the book priced at Rs 975 had sold record numbers. Oxford led the pack with 3,000 copies trading places, while the footfall count at Crossword crossed 3,700.

But the euphoria was also tinged by a sense of loss. “I can’t believe this is the last book. I sincerely hope that Rowling is not serious about not writing any more Harry Potter books,” said Srijita Kundu, a student of Bidya Bharati Girls High School.

It is to the likes of Srijita that Rowling has dedicated Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. “The dedication of this book is… to you, if you have stuck with Harry till the very end,” writes Rowling.

They sure have.

And so, at the end, “all was well”.

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