DH = July 21, 2007
DH minus 5 days.
‘I need your help.’
‘This is serious. Listen up.’
‘This is kidding. Tell me.’
‘This Saturday I need your moral support.’
‘Moral? Yes I can do moral. I’m good at moral.’
‘That and your bike.’
‘There it is. What time?’
‘Wow. What is that day anyway?’
‘I have a release that day.’
‘Ah! I understand. Even I was very tensed on the day of my first production release.’
‘So, is this a major release or just a maintenance one?’
‘Neither. This is the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.’
I have only two rules when it came to Harry Potter.
You like Harry Potter? I like you already.
You haven’t read Harry Potter? Father forgive them for they know not what they do.
Sometime in December 2006, Rowling had announced that she’d be releasing the final book of the series on July 21, 2007. Ever since that moment, I waited for the book, like a newly engaged guy waits for his first night.
The very next day after the announcement, I went to Landmark store in the Forum Mall (Bangalore) and asked when the advance booking would start.
March 1st, store opening time: ‘Next week sir’.
Next Monday, store opening time: ‘Please give your mobile number sir. We will call you when the booking starts’.
I gave it.
20 days later they called me.
‘Booking started today morning sir.’
Two hours later, I walked out of Landmark having successfully booked my book.
With less than 4 months to go, I knew I had to revise the syllabus. I read the first 6 books again. I came up with theories about what would happen in seven. I participated actively in all the major Harry Potter communities in Orkut (remember?).
The discussion threads were never ending.
Who is R.A.B?
Is Dumbledore still alive?
Is Snape really evil?
Is Voldemort, Harry’s real father?
And my favorite…is Hogwarts a Horcrux?
Orkut’s HP communities never slept.
DH minus 4 days.
I called Kiri, my onsite counterpart at work.
I informed him that I will be very busy during the weekend and that I will be leaving early on Friday. The kind soul that he was, he told me that it was a slow week, so it was OK.
DH minus 3 days.
One of my team mates had recently moved into a new house.
So yes, my team wanted a party. People bugged him long and hard till he finally gave in. He invited us to his house for lunch. Yes – on Saturday, 7/21/7.
Within the next 30 minutes it became a team event and everyone was ‘mandated’ to join in. Travel and gift plans were being made.
I wasn’t sure if the smile on my face did a satisfactory job of hiding the fact that I wanted to Crucio the genitalia of everyone in the room.
It was when the senior managers joined in invitation list that the magic happened. In true corporate tradition, people started remembering that they had ‘other commitments’ on Saturday. Within a few minutes, almost everyone was able to remember his/her own reason for not being able to attend the lunch. So it was forgotten and unceremoniously canceled.
DH minus 1 day.
Thank Godric Gryffindor it was Friday. It was the day before the release. I came to office at 8 A.M. My friends called me for breakfast. I asked them to wait while I called up onsite to check if there was any work.
The call went to voice mail. We all went to breakfast.
That day we had a 1 hour breakfast meeting where we discussed death – who all will die in seven. Back at my desk after breakfast, I checked the Infy Bulletin Board. It was rocking with posts about the book and the release. People were fighting to prove that their theory was the most likely one. Finally someone from the HRD had to put up a post asking people to stop posting theories and to maintain peace.
I tried calling onsite again. This time he answered.
‘Deepak, I was just sending you an email.’
‘Oh, about what?’
‘Just a minor issue. You remember the thread in USSA application which activates users?’
‘It must run once every day at a specific time. But its running only once in a lifetime. It has to run every day. This must be fixed today. Shouldn’t take too long,’ he said.
‘Uh, there is a release tomorrow Kiri–’
‘Exactly. We have our first production release tomorrow.’
Murphy’s Law: If something bad can happen it will.
I was too young in the industry to understand what a production move really was. I asked my lead and other senior team members. Everyone gave interesting definitions. Collating all of them I understood what it was.
A production move is something, citing which; your boss can make you work your behind off for an indefinite amount of time, irrespective of your gender, caste, creed, sect, marital status, sexual orientation and most importantly – time zone.
Determined to fix the issue and leave early, I started work immediately.
4 hours later I cursed my determination. It had wasted so much time.
After implementing several brilliant ideas and failing, I checked with one of the leads in the team. He gave me few options to try out. He advised me to re-launch the application after every code change, because Java threads were as unpredictable as Trump’s next executive order.
I tried what he said. After the third re-launch I felt giddy. At the sixth re-launch I had a headache. At the eighth re-launch I was sick. By the tenth re-launch I doubted if I had turned into Uday Chopra.
After struggling for 14 hours the damn thing finally got fixed.
It was 12:30 AM. DH day had started.
I called Santosh. He picked me up outside the office and we went to my hostel by 1 AM. We changed into bedtime clothes – tees and knickers.
‘What time are we going to Forum?’ he asked.
‘In another 3 hours.’
As usual, we overslept and woke up at 4:30. We reached Forum by 4:45.
In the parking lot, I saw only 2 other bikes.
I thanked God – we weren’t late.
God laughed – we were very late. The queue started from the ground floor, all the way up to Landmark in the first floor. There were at least 200 people before us.
Forum had become a fortress. Police, Press, the works.
Everyone was dressed for the occasion. It was a pretty sight.
The men in the queue were in formals and denims. Women mostly wore jeans and tees, although there were some in saris too. The police personnel were in their khaki uniforms. The press people were in black suits.
Santosh and I were in our night clothes.
The din from the crowd was music. So many strangers and I heard them saying words like Harry, Dumbledore, Ron, Hermione, Snape, Hagrid, Ginny, Voldemort, Hogwarts, Neville, Nagini etc. That queue was home.
I was excited.
Santosh was bored.
Santosh was a special person that morning. In all the people who were in the queue, he was the one who had absolutely no clue about Harry Potter. He hadn’t read a single line from the books or watched any of the movies. He was there because of me.
At 5:30, the press descended upon the queue. The usual cameraman and mike-woman. They went to select members in the queue and did the usual ‘How are you feeling about this?’ routine.
The forum staff gave coffee and cookies to everyone. Santosh and I finished our share in 3 minutes. I was trying to check if we could get another helping, when mike-woman came to me.
‘So how are feeling?’
‘Hahaha! Are you excited about the final book?’
‘What do you think of Snape?’
‘He’s my favorite character.’
‘He’s Santosh’s favorite character.’ I pointed him to her.
She turned to him.
‘So Santosh, what do you think of Dumbledore?’
‘Uh…Harry Potter rocks!’
‘You like Harry more?’
‘Yeah, Harry Potter rocks!’
‘Yes…so what do you think will happen in the end?’
‘Harry Potter rocks!’
‘Yes…you think Harry will die in the end?’
‘Harry Potter rocks!’
‘Harry Potter rocks!’
She hurried to her next victim. And so, like that Santosh and I gave our first interview to national TV – without brushing or bathing, dressed in tees and knickers.
After a little while the queue started to move. We were served cake and fruit punch as we entered Landmark. While I was busy with the billing, Santosh gobbled up my food. I finally got my hands on the book. And hoped to God that some psycho wouldn’t turn to the last page in their book and scream out the ending.
15 minutes later we were back at the hostel.
‘So what about breakfast?’ he asked.
‘Are you seriously leaving me out here?’
‘The ones who love us never really leave us, you can always find them in here,’ I said pointing to my heart.
Today 10 years have passed since that morning when I politely threw him out.
Today Santosh has read all 7 books and watched all 8 movies.
My lead Sanjay runs Marathons and works at Oracle when he isn’t running.
My onsite counterpart Kiri now works for United.
Forum and Landmark never saw a queue like that for a book again.
Rumor has it that the Java thread which I wrote 10 years ago is the code glitch due to which United flights get overbooked today and passengers get dragged out by the crew.
And Harry Potter…still rocks.