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Potter-mania hits bookstores

Vaihayasi Pande Daniel at Strand Book Stall, Fort, Mumbai

By 7 am, Strand Book Stall, Fort, Mumbai, who opened their doors at 6.30 am sharp on July 21, had sold 2,000 copies of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Queues of excited Potterwallahs, who had been in line since 6 am or earlier, wound themselves around the block in this busy Mumbai business district, where Saturday is usually a very quiet day.

Mothers and daughters, teenagers, young working people, plenty of youngsters with their parents and lot of oldies. all stood in a queue calmly clutching receipts for copies booked up to three months earlier.

The paan wallahs and chai wallahs nearby had seen this phenomenon before. "Yes it is for that book," they said sagely. "I don't know what the book is about."

But Joseph Fernandes, who runs a wee paan and cigarette shop, two doors down since the 1960s, knew that it was a Harry Potter tamasha. He had even seen a Harry Potter film on television and enjoyed it. If they planned to show the next ones on television, he hoped to catch them.

For Swapna and Gouri the release of the newest and final Harry Potter was an occasion to do a sleep over. Gouri, who lives in Dombivili, arrived at Swapna's Dadar residence the night before.

Swapna, a past pro at standing in line and getting one of the first few copies of Harry Potter, has done this routine quite a few times before, when Harry Potter books release.

Gouri usually takes the easy way out and borrows Swapna's copy when she is done.

"But since it was the last book, I decided to come this time," she explains shyly.

They were all set to take a train and reach Strand by 6.30-6.45 when someone warned them that there were just 1,000 copies. So they jumped a cab and rushed here.

"It will take me about 24 hours to finish it," says Swapna. But she has a job at a medical research center and first had a working day to get through before she could immerse herself in the magic of J K Rowling.

Strand's nifty Rs 300 discount had attracted folks from all over Mumbai.

Kinnary was from Andheri and had camped at friend Deval's place from the night before too. The mechanics of reaching Strand by 6.30 had pulled them out of bed at 5 am.

Godwin, also from Andheri, had his last Harry Potter copy delivered.

"But that was too expensive. If you are going to college and need to save then you would buy it at Strand!"

A group of girls from St Anne's School, near Regal cinema, had planned their Harry Potter excursion with some precision. They needed to be in school by 8 am for Saturday school. So they arrived neatly attired in their uniforms and would head to school afterwards.

Folks clutching the latest copy (or two or three books) in awe bounded out of the shop with squeals and jumps of joy.

Others decided the moment was historic and clicked pictures of themselves standing in line. Flash bulbs went off as reporters and press photographers mingled with the crowd, even quizzing random traffic cops who coasted by.

Inside, Strand, with its usual efficiency, was running the show meticulously; absolutely no sweat. As the queue coiled around the five dozen cartons of Potter books, receipts were quickly checked and copies handed out.

P M Shenvi had been at it since 5 am. He had left his Mulund home to be at Fort to take charge of the Harry Potter consignment of 6,000 books.

The consignment was with military exactitude precisely handed over in sealed cartons by Safe Express couriers to Strand from Penguin India at 6 am. Safe Express actually rolled up in their trucks at 5.45 am but only handed over the cartons on the dot of 6 am as ordered. Safe Express guards were in evidence helping mind the queue too.

Most Harry Potter copies being purchased were booked beforehand and just about 100 books were available for those foolishly lucky souls walking in off the street without receipts. The balance 1,500 to 2,000 will be mailed out to Strand's out-of-town customers or to those who ordered the book by mail.

By 7.30 am the un-booked 100 were wiped out.

Earlier slide show: Coverage: The Magic of Harry Potter


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