By Adity Choudhury
“You might belong in Gryffindor,
Where dwell the brave at heart,
Their daring, nerve, and chivalry,
Set Gryffindors apart.”
The sorting hat is a special element of the Harry Potter series. It places new witches and wizards, pure and muggle, in their rightful houses at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Shrouded in secrecy, the school hones the magical talents of the students.
While we may not have witnessed Shillong-based entrepreneur, Brandon Rynjah’s sorting ceremony as an 11-year-old muggle with magical gifts, he revealed he is a proud Gryffindor.
All set to create a space for Potterheads of Shillong, he is focusing all his time in perfecting the small aspects of the theme-based café, Muggle’s Corner.
Post graduation from Hogwarts, he returned to the muggle (magical term for non-magical folks) world. Speaking about his subsequent journey, he said, “I completed Hotel Management from Guwahati and that is when my journey began. I fell in love with how restaurants are run, be it the creative thinking, the chefs or the management.”
One wonders if there was an employment crisis after the rightful death of Lord Voldemort, in the hands of our titular hero, Harry Potter, known universally as “The Boy who Lived”. There is no conclusive answer to this question.
Instead, the conversation steered on the ideation journey of his café. In Rynjah’s words, “Well, I am always fond of pop culture. Just like my other café, Hideaway, which is located near St. Anthony’s College, this is another space. I have always loved Harry Potter and the idea of opening a wizard (Harry Potter) themed café was a dream that I nurtured. Why can’t we have a space for Potterheads here?”
Is Hideaway, a step towards the dream then? For the entrepreneur, memories play an important role in his ventures. “It is filled with all of my childhood memories… things I loved – cartoons, superheroes, football. I want Muggle’s Corner to be similar to Hideaway,” he added.
For the Potter-obsessed Rynjah, his friends are muggles who are not fans of the franchise. That said, they helped him in giving his dream project, a concrete shape. Hesitant at first, he took a leap of faith.
In his own words, “When I created the Instagram page, I was surprised and overwhelmed by the response. People enquired and expressed their excitement. It’s about time we take out our wands and broomsticks this Halloween.”
Specific details have gone in creating this space. Rynjah admitted that making a specific theme-based café is “very difficult”. Small details make all the difference. This is especially true of the different props that are not readily available in the market.
Credit goes to those who believed in him. “Making this café wouldn’t be possible without some people. For instance, there is Josh, the owner of the ‘Humble Craftsman’, who is making the props. Or the artist, Inesha and her team, painting the beautiful backdrop.”
Mawdiangdiang makes perfect sense as a location, given Hogwarts is hidden from non-magical people, thanks to concealment charms. Why did Rynjah choose this location? His response may not appeal to some people as it is, in many ways, regular problems in the muggle world.
“Nowadays, getting a free space in Shillong is like searching for a needle in a haystack. And yes, considering the ample parking space and traffic, we had to plan the location carefully,” he pointed out.
A cheeky grin followed as he added, “But for Potterheads like us, traffic will never be a problem. We can use our broomsticks, right?”
Rowling’s legacy continues to grow long after the publication of the books. Certain elements are now part of pop culture – butterbeer, wands, and the sorting hat. It is no surprise that these will be part of Muggle’s Corner.
Rynjah spoke about having a wand collection, apart from the sorting hat and Nimbus 2000 broomsticks. Interestingly, another detail is a reference to the Great Hall from the book series. “We are trying to figure out how to have the floating candles too,” he said.
Back in the day, certain groups of people were unhappy with the Harry Potter series, concerned about the welfare of children. Not only were the books banned, even burned, Rowling was labelled a witch for creating a different, albeit dark world.
Despite this, Potterverse is an ever-expanding world. Could Rynjah think of a different name for his café? He said, “My café is named Muggle’s Corner because I want to show this world to the people. The minute detailing in the books is astounding. What a fascinating world Rowling has created. While reading the books, I would marvel at her rich inner world that fuelled her creativity. That alone is inspiring.”
What remains to be seen is how Shillong responds to a Harry Potter-themed café. But one thing is certain – we can no longer hide behind veils. Potterheads will proudly ride their broomsticks on Halloween if not every day.
It takes courage to think differently. As Rowling once said in the 1998 ITN interview, “Harry Potter came to me on the train in 1990. I was sitting there just staring out of the window and the idea just fell out of nowhere – it was the purest stroke of inspiration I’ve ever had in my life. And, I’ve been writing about him ever since. Literally. I have boxes – loads of stuff on him that’s travelled with me to Portugal where I was working before Edinburgh, and back to Edinburgh, so it’s been growing and growing. But it was in Edinburgh that I actually carved a book out of that massive material.”