I’ve had a lot of “The Days” in my life – Milestone days which you look forward to with anticipation and excitement rarely matched by the other mundane aspects of our everyday lives. Due to my love for all aspects of entertainment, I’ve had a lot more of these than other people. For instance, any Manchester United final is always an occasion preceded by those unbearable butterflies in the stomach. More close to home, any Rajinikanth or Kamal Haasan or Mani Rathnam film or any film of the big heroes in recent times for that matter always carries huge expectations and weeks or months before release are spent entirely on discussions on them. However, to me, one day stands above all else as “The Day” I looked forward to more than any other in my 24 year existence. The day in question was Saturday July 21st 2007 and the event was the release of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, the epic conclusion to the definitive book series of my generation.
Before getting into the day itself, it would be wise for me to describe how it came to be “THE DAY” for me. To tell the truth, I was never a big Harry Potter junkie in my school days. It was the craze among everyone else but, possibly due to that very reason, I had an aversion to it for much of my schooling period. I tried reading it once or twice but could never make it through the initial pages for some stupid reason. That all changed in January 2007.
The hype for The Deathly Hallows was already at its zenith once we hit the year of its release. Naturally, I caught wind of it and was intrigued for obvious reasons. I knew all my previous trysts with the series had been doomed because of my personal prejudices at the time and was determined not to let that happen again, now that I had grown up and all that. I went ahead and rented Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone and started reading it. Around 300 pages later, I knew I was hooked for life. Two months and 5 humongous books later, I had pre-ordered The Deathly Hallows from a local book store at a 15% discount and the arduous wait had started. Older die-hard Potter fans, please forgive me. I know my wait wasn’t as long as yours but it was equally painful nonetheless.
Truth be told, the next four months went by relatively quickly. I got my sister involved with the series and she was as hooked as me. I quelled whatever thoughts she may have had about having first right to the final book by stamping my foot down, so that was settled. A lot of time was spent on discussing every aspect of the series - whether Snape was a double-agent for the good or the bad side (I guessed it correctly in the end); who R.A.B was; what are The Deathly Hallows; and so on. No time was spent on online forums for fear of bloody spoilers. And then, it finally arrived, not without complications might I add.
Firstly, and unfortunately for me, my college for some reason decided that it had to work on The Day of my life. My father was not too pleased to hear that I was taking another off-day since I had taken one the previous week to celebrate a friend’s birthday bash. It was not a big deal because nothing was going to stop me anyway. The other complication was that I had all of two days to complete the book and hand it over to my sister who was leaving to go back to her city of work on the very next night. This was also not much of an obstacle since I would naturally be done by that time.
The night before the day is the worst for any person. You can hardly sleep and this was no different. Not only was the realization that it was so near causing insomnia, but I had a million unanswered questions in my head. I lay down in bed and went through the first six books in order trying to picturize the major events and what the three protagonists had been through to get to this point. To this day, I have no idea how and when I ultimately dozed off.
My plan was to go around 5:30 AM to the store which was quite nearby, but, for some reason, I didn’t imagine people in Chennai waking up early to stand in a queue when the store itself opened only at 7 or 7:30. I woke up relatively early at about 6 and made it to the store at around half past six only to be greeted by a line about 150m long of people of ages varying everywhere from six to sixty. I was pleasantly surprised to be honest.
I took my place at the end of the queue, got out my phone, switched on the MP3 player and put the music on its highest volume. The final wait had started. The music was so loud that I could barely hear my own voice but, with the amount of sick people looking to spoil it at any instant, I was not taking any chances. The queue started moving about 45 minutes later and the butterflies started increasing. I made it into the store finally and was greeted by Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows everywhere.
The shop was littered with the final book and it was practically screaming at me to lift one directly off the shelf. The butterflies were getting unbearable by this point. I composed myself by muttering under my breath, “Only a few more minutes and it will all be over.” And so it happened, there came a time when it was my turn at the counter and I was given my very own hardcover copy of The Deathly Hallows along with a couple of other local fantasy books as gifts, both of which I have not opened to this day.
I spent the next two days locked up in my room all by myself. No outside visitors and the only trips I made were to the dinner table and the restroom. Then, within the blink of an eye, it was all over. If I am going to be entirely honest with you, the knowledge that it had ended was a bit unsettling. The experience of reading the book was one of divine pleasure and I will not easily forget that, but the thought of it being over was a bit hard to take in. Eventually it would come to pass but at that time, I was stricken by sadness.
For me, any time I relive the experience of The Day from my life, I am struck with genuine elation. It has been almost exactly four years since that day, but nothing can take away the excitement I felt as it neared. The endless discussions for months on end, the ineffable joy I felt as I walked down that queue and got my hands on the book, and the actual experience of reading the book itself haven’t been matched since and possibly never will be in my lifetime.
Now, I prepare for another Day with almost the same excitement. This time the anticipation is for entirely different reasons. It is the hope that the motion picture spectacle provides the perfect counterpart to its written form and concludes the series on the epic high that it so rightfully deserves. Although the early reviews have been positive, they are meaningless to most Potter fanatics. We want everything to be just right in this film. It practically has to provide the same level of satisfaction we felt on that day. I have no idea whether it will, but I do know that I look forward to July 14th 2011 with virtually the same amount of butterflies in my stomach as I had in the days preceding July 21st 2007. The final wait has begun.