Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The World of Manga

Welcome to the world where limits are defined only by the extent of one’s imagination. Welcome to the world of flying creatures, magicians, wizards and even aliens; a world where some people are confused about how to wear their underwear. A world full of superheroes and the evil, sinister villains who are hell bent on destroying our world, come what may! A world of damsels in distress and knights in shining armour. It’s a world where little sticks cast spell and brooms are flying machines. This is the intriguing, mystical and bewitching world of comic books and you are cordially invited to this world by ‘LeapingWindows’ – a comic book library in the suburb of Andheri. So are you ready to leap through the window to undertake a voyage through the world of manga?
A view of the library

Leaping windows’ has been set up by three friends – Bidisha, Koel and Utsa. Bidisha is a writer, she used to work for Sanctuary Asia and she has also worked as English teacher in Japan. Koel is an alumnus of National Institute of Design and works as a consultant designer. Utsa is an ex-lawyer and currently and a photographer by hobby. Koel and Bidisha happen to be childhood friends; Utsa, on the other hand, was introduced to the two by a common friend. The trio came together two years ago to start Leaping Windows. Koel and Utsa work full time at the Library and Café.

If you love comics then you definitely know the pain that comic book fans have to go through, in our country, to lay their hands on their favourite comics. People spend a lot of time reading comics on the internet or spend hours in the aisles of bookstores trying to speed-read comic books which they can’t afford to buy. Graphic novels are expensive and hence people tend to buy comics which they already know well about or ones that they really want to read. “There’s not much scope to be adventurous, to indulge your curiosity by picking up something that merely ‘looks interesting’. We wanted people to be able to read whatever they wanted without spending all their money” said Bidisha. Their vision is to make comic accessible for all.

An obvious question we had in our mind was the story behind the interesting name – ‘Leaping Windows’. And as it turned out, there was one interesting story behind the name. “The little brother of a friend ours jumped off their balcony with a towel tied around his neck like a cape. Luckily it was the first floor! We just thought it kind of represented a leap of the imagination (although a slightly dangerous one!) and the story inspired the name Leaping Windows while we were brainstorming”, said Bidisha. It also kind of fits in with the windows that a comic strip is broken up into - reading a comic is like leaping from one window to another.
Outdoor seating area of the library

The library, presently in Versova, Andheri; was started out from their flat in Bandra. The first thing they did was to make a list of the books that they wanted to stock. For selecting the books they took the help of everyone who was an expert on comics. This was followed by building the website. In the second phase they got a space for the library and then went about setting up a café to go along with the library. Leaping windows lets you enjoy your favourite comic book with a steaming cup of coffee; heaven! They also have a reading room where you can go into hibernation and enjoy comics without caring about the outside world. The reading room is accessible at Rs. 30/hour. A membership of this amazing library will entail you the privilege of 24 hour delivery of your comic books. What more could comic book lovers want!

Comic book culture has been on the rise in the city of Mumbai, and that is what spurred these guys to set up a place that could fulfil this need. Movies and Television have been instrumental in popularizing certain kinds of comics. As it should be, this craze for comics is huge among the below 18 segment. Adults too are lapping up comics, but they are more into the DC and Marvel stuff. Batman happens to be the favourite among this crowd. Most of the demand is for foreign comic books and authors. However if interest in comics goes on increasing at the current rate, it could go a long way in improving the situation of local comics. Currently making a viable career in comics in India is a very tough job, only a few enjoy this privilege. However with a push in readership more people might opt for a full time career in illustration and comic writing, and we might see some great comics coming out of our country.

Leaping windows has so far restrained from marketing itself. They let their customers do all the talking, preferring word of mouth over any form of advertising. They have a 4000 strong community on Facebook and organize monthly comic book related events from book launches, comic drawing competitions to quizzes. The smile on their faces told us the great response that they have been receiving from their customers. “Overall, we’re very happy with how things are going so far”, said the founders, trying to be a bit modest.
The Cafe

Right now they are only looking to build upon the great traction that they have generated with their customers. The café which is a recent addition has been taking up much of their time. They have big plans for the library, including spreading their wings to other cities. The trio who are walking on the trail of entrepreneurship have some wise words to share with other budding entrepreneurs, “Make sure you’re ready for the commitment, hard work and possibly dire financial straits that you’ll have to plough through before there’s any pay off other than personal satisfaction. The faster you take the plunge the better.” That’s all for now folks, we are headed to the library to grab a copy of our favourite ‘Tintin’ and a cup of coffee!

You can visit Leaping Windows website - here
And if you dont like to stray away from Facebook then you can check out their Facebook page - here

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