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Potterheads on what the Harry Potter franchise means to them

Ahead of the 20th anniversary of the publication of JK Rowling's iconic series, we speak to Potterheads about how they've brought the wizarding world into their lives

Bhavya Kotian
Bhavya Kotian

He pulled out his wand and yelled, 'Accio'. From the distance, a blurry object - golden and with wings - moved towards the couple. As it came closer, she realised it was a ring, inscribed with the word always, and attached to a drone.

Harry Potter collection
Harry Potter collection

Ayush Jain, got down on one knee and proposed to his girlfriend, Ishita Dave. It was a special moment, made magical by different Harry Potter related elements used in the proposal. "Harry Potter will always be part of our lives," admits the 27-year-old.

Firewhiskey Caramel TartFirewhiskey Caramel Tart

June 26 marks two decades since the first Harry Potter (HP) book was published, and cast a spell on readers around the world. Fans (Potterheads) have changed Wi-Fi names to Hogwarts, changed their birthday so friends could pitch in and buy them the latest book in the series; they've slept with the entire book set near their beds; inked tattoos of phrases of characters; just about anything to prove their love for The Boy Who Lived.

Shirin Mehrotra. Pic/Amrita Kaur
Shirin Mehrotra. Pic/Amrita Kaur

He's a keeper
"Everything from my workdesk to my farewell email at my old workplace is inspired by Harry Potter. My first two jobs have begun on September 1 because that's when the [Hogwarts] term begins," says Richa Arora Dodani, 24, a digital marketing strategist.

Ayush and Ishita
Ayush and Ishita

Jain, on the other hand, knew his proposal had to have some magic to it. "We both connect with HP. Since the proposal, friends are sharing ideas to add magic to our wedding too," he laughs, adding that they're hoping to build their collection of memorabilia.

The ring
The ring

Bhavya Kotian, 27, a freelance photographer is proud of her HP collection, sourced from her overseas visits and gifts. "I have a key ring with the Hogwarts logo, a box of bookmarks of the four house crests, a Dumbledore's Army pocket watch, fridge magnets, posters, Gryffindor crop top, a Hogwarts alumnus tee, golden snitch and deathly hallows necklaces, a timeturner keyring, and even underwear," she says, adding that she also has two tattoos. "I started reading the books when I was 11, but it was only after I began travelling that I started collecting memorabilia. I go back to Harry Potter books whenever I need a palate cleanser from other stuff," she says, laughing.

Potter figurines
Potter figurines 

For many Potterheads, re-reading the books is an annual tradition. "I ensure I do a marathon every July 31, because what else would I do on that day?" says Dodani.

Bijal Vachharajani, Elton Dmello and Aniket Mitra
Bijal Vachharajani, Elton Dmello and Aniket Mitra

Bengaluru-based author of children's books, Bijal Vachharajani, 38, was introduced to the books while studying communications in Mumbai. "There was a time in my life when I was going through personal setbacks, and I re-read the books. Suddenly, a lot started making sense to me, and the series became like a crutch. That's when I started collecting figurines," she says. Vachharajani has posters, figurines she bought at the now-closed store, Avengers, in Bandra, an elder wand, a Hogwarts crest and lots of jewellery - snitch, time turner and Ron and Hermione earrings.

End of the year feast
While some fans collect figurines, others make their own. Food writer Shirin Mehrotra's love for the books manifests itself through food. As part of The Literary Kitchen experiments - where she cooks dishes from her favourite books - she has made versions of Felix Felicis (liquid luck), a Dark Chocolate and Firewhiskey Caramel Tart, and Pumpkin Pasties. Her Pumpkin Pasties are savoury - roasted pumpkin mash with rosemary and ricotta; and her Dark Chocolate and Firewhiskey Caramel Tart has dark chocolate ganache and chilli-infused whiskey and a caramel sauce. "There were too many people making butterbeer and treacle tarts, so I thought of doing a potion, and Felix Felicis came to mind. In the scene, he acts a bit high so I decided to add some alcohol to it; I love Old Monk. I spiced it with cinnamon, and added honey to sweetness and to give it a golden colour," she explains.

Vachharajani is known for Harry Potter-themed parties that began in 2015. "It is an annual celebration now," she says. "People dress up; there's a password at the door, guests get sorted; there are cutouts of characters and balloons decorated as owls." Everything is made in-house with simple ingredients, from the decorations to the cockroach clusters (actually cake balls with sprinkles), cheese broomsticks, Ferrero Rocher snitches, and pumpkin juice.

OWLS and more
In 2005, Aniket Mitra, 26, participated in a worldwide online HP quiz with a friend and completed 85 questions to come fifth in the contest. Mitra is no stranger to quizzes - a member of the Bombay Quiz Club (BQC), he has been creating and solving HP quizzes since he began reading the books. "In Class 8, I bonded with a friend over Harry Potter. We would create quizzes for each other or play a HP hangman game," he says.

Last year, the two-year-old experiential events management company, Vagabond, conducted an event called Portkey in Bandra. The mini Potter fest featured cosplay, stalls with merchandise, butterbeer and chocolate frogs, and a special photo booth. "Three of us (founders) love Harry Potter, and we realised there was this vacuum for themed events in Mumbai. Two years ago, we conducted a quiz called Owls," recalls founder Elton Dmello, 26. The five-round quiz had 20 participants and took place in a friend's garden. Last year's quiz was bigger and better - there were 24 teams, and the organisers were forced to create rounds where they were given magic powers to use against each other.

"These were serious fans, and they were competitive," says Dmello. The problem with Potter-themed events in the city, he feels, is that fan culture hasn't picked up and people head to such fests or Comic Con because it is cool or for the photo ops. "No one considers it a big deal here. People have cooled off with their enthusiasm. Fans are happy in their fandoms," Kotian says, recalling how as a student in the UK, she witnessed trivia nights, and Quidditch games in colleges.

"But if I meet a fellow fan, we immediately get down to discussing the books. And that's enough," she says.

Test your wits

1) Son of Zeus and Maia, he is the second youngest of the Olympian gods. Considered the god of transitions and boundaries, he was portrayed as the divine messenger in The Odyssey. To which character does he lend his name?

2) After Aragog's funeral, by what name does Slughorn mistakenly call Ron while talking to Harry?

3) What do the second, 22nd and 27th brightest stars in the sky have in common?

4) One of JKR's favourite artists, David Bowie, penned a letter in the form of a song to his estranged girlfriend, in his second studio album. What is the name of the song?

5) In 2004, what did JK Rowling vehemently deny after it was rumoured in the press that she did something as an act of revenge towards her ex-husband?

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