The windburn on my ears this week was caused by July 31 as it whooshed by right over my head, faster than a speeding bullet, a mere blur of coattails disappearing around the corner. Every law-abiding Indian knows, of course, why July 31 was a red-letter day: it was Harry Potter’s 17th birthday and time for the final epic showdown with Voldemort, which, by the way, did not disappoint me as it did some grouchy critics who claimed to be bored. Although, to be fair, one could also point out that the action in my life is not exactly off the charts, currently, so it might not take much more than a Sorting Hat to rock my world.
Not that I come over all mental about the Potter books. I don’t much care for a review that starts with the sentence “So Harry Potter dies in the end, but…” or “So Harry Potter doesn’t die in the end, but…”; but at the same time I am not in favour of the attitude recently parodied by the ever-incisive Onion (‘America’s finest news source’) in an article titled ‘Final Harry Potter Book Blasted For Containing Spoilers’.
Oops, as a certain bald and troubled pop singer once said, I did it again. See, this is exactly what caused all the trouble. I was reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows—a bit later than most, but then that’s precisely the burden of my song—and the world around me grew so dim and fuzzy and boring by comparison to Elder wands and doe-shaped Patronuses and Aurors pregnant by werewolves, and the shocking deaths of major characters, that I completely forgot the Muggle reason why July 31 was so important to us law-abiding Indians.
It has to do with a certain sinister Ministry that makes your money Disapparate, and it’s not as if they have to overcome any Gringotts goblins to do it; they just put something very like an Imperius curse on you and wham, you start marching around like a zombie, obediently photocopying receipts and writing out cheques to them in your own hand without a murmur or a question crossing your lips.
A question like, Why? Why do I have to pay taxes? Didn’t I just pay some last year?
That’s right, July 31 was the last date for filing individual tax returns. And I clean forgot, even though I’d been warning myself to remember since May. As soon as I’m done writing this I’ll go and bang my head against a wall like any house-elf who knows she’s been bad.
But I take some consolation in the fact that my badness is quite small on the cosmic scale of wrongdoing—on which, after all, we have to somewhere place Jack the Ripper, and Hitler, and whoever told Celine Dion to keep at it. Because, if the penalty for filing late is one percent on whatever tax you would have paid, I won’t be forking out much more than I would for an autorickshaw ride to the train station.
And before you ask, that’s not because of evasion, but because of my own excellent foresight in knowing that I would be late, and therefore cleverly minimising my losses by earning only the bare minimum required to live this city while still allowing one to occasionally go out for a Butterbeer with one’s friends. So the Ministry will only have a shortfall of a tiny little bit, for a tiny little period, while I get myself organised. It shouldn’t take that long. I’ll just first finish the five simultaneous games of Scrabble I’m playing on Facebook with working people in four different time zones.
Patience, as Voldemort knew, is a virtue.