The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tumour can wait, not Potter
- Extraordinary tales at dawn as book breaks record

Calcutta/New Delhi, July 16: The magic in the morning air affected even the Muggles in white coats at Delhi’s Indraprastha Apollo Hospital.

What else can explain the two-hour break they gave their 10-year-old brain tumour patient from Africa to go buy a copy of the latest Harry Potter book'

For eight weeks at a stretch, Tanzanian boy Muta Baregu had lain on his hospital bed, undergoing chemotherapy.

“The first thing we did (after coming out) was buy a copy of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” said Muta’s mother Dosca at Tekson’s bookshop in South Extension.

The magic, working elsewhere in the country, too, pulled thousands of children out of bed at sunrise on a Saturday to buy, of all things, a book. The spell was powerful enough to make their parents happily accompany them to the book stores.

On the day of its worldwide release, the sixth Potter adventure smashed publishing records in India, selling 100,000 copies between 6.30 am and 6 pm ' at 145 a minute.

“For a first-day show, this is two-and-a-half times better than any of the previous books,” said Thomas Abraham, president of the book’s distributors, Penguin India.

“The first order was for 1.4 lakh copies. We are planning to place an order for another 20,000 copies by tonight. Landmark Chennai has already sold out and I think the rest of the major bookshops don’t have stock that will last for more than two to three days.”

In Calcutta, the queues had started forming before 6 am. Sonakshi Nandy was beaming as she strolled out of Crossword with her father.

“I wanted to be the first in the city to get the book' I think only a few people beat me to it,” the La Martiniere student said. Her father, happy that the object of Sonakshi’s obsession was a book, felt the mad rush indicated “the right priorities”.

In the queues were people from places as far as Serampore and Uttarpara -- parents and relatives of determined kids who wouldn’t take no for an answer.

“Sales are much higher than they were for the last book,” said Rajiv Chowdhry, CEO, Oxford Book Store. He is anxiously waiting for a fresh consignment of 600 copies to arrive.

“I haven’t seen so many cars pull up at my store in 10 years,” gushed Ashok Barman, proprietor of Family Book Shop, which had sold around 100 copies by 7.30 am ' about two a minute.

By 11 am, the 27-year-old store had surpassed the first-day sales recorded by the previous Potter book, The Order of the Phoenix.

Copies of the Bloomsbury edition moved as fast as sales staff could work. Stores kept them ready ' packed with even the bill prepared in advance.

“It’s a good book because it doesn’t treat children as children. A 10-year-old doesn’t want to read Enid Blyton any more,” said Rana Gambhir, mother of 16-year-old Tushar, at Tekson’s, Delhi. “Even I read Harry Potter.”

There were pockets of trouble, though. Landmark, decorated with images of bats and dragons hanging from the ceiling and a make-believe fire blazing on the bustling floor, caught two shoplifters in the act. But that was not enough to destroy the spell.

Nor was the prank played by a few girls at a Calcutta school. Skimming through the chapters to find out the answer to the big question -- who dies at the end -- they sprinted from classroom to classroom, announcing the name to dismayed Potter fans.

Maybe a few bratty Malfoys of the world did have their day, but only the 607-page Half-Blood Prince will say who prevails in the end.

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