Dr. Seuss, famous cartoonist and writer rightly said, “Words and pictures are yin and yang. Married, they produce a progeny more interesting than either parent.”
Reading comics is a light-minded activity for many of us. But for some others, it is a serious business of following their passion. Born and brought up in Kolkata, Bidisha Basu pursued her masters degree in journalism in the United States of America. She wasn’t sure what she actually wanted to do which led her to move between jobs. She moved to Mumbai to work in a wildlife magazine called Sanctuary. After working there for a year, she continued with some freelance writing assignments followed by ad film production based jobs.
“I wanted a change again. So I went for a programme to Japan where you can go and teach English to Japanese students. It’s an embassy run programme. They had just started the India chapter couple of years before that.”
She worked in Japan for 2 years which paid her well and she saved the money to start something of her own. She was inspired by the idea of Japanese cafes and planned to open a library exclusively for comics.
The Library of Comics
Most of her friends stayed in Mumbai and she loved the city, and therefore she decided to stay back.
“The problem with most of the jobs was that I would get bored very quickly. You persevere for a while and then you have reached the benefits of it all. My mindset was only not like that. It was very hard for me to
stay in a job for that long. I had been thinking a lot and talking to my friends about starting something on my own. If I work hard, I am working hard for myself at least. This was the biggest justification. I wanted to prove to myself that I can make a longer commitment work wise.”Housed in a suburb of Andheri, the place used to be a book shop and a library that shut down and Leaping Windows came to be. Bidisha believed that having one genre of books gets much more publicity and mileage amongst people. It’s better to be comprehensive in one section and thus the library caters to comics only. The users generally login on their website to choose and order from a wide variety of comics which later gets delivered to them within Mumbai by the in-house delivery boys. Leaping Windows hosts various events such as Comic Con related, book releases and comic releases.
“I was into lots of books and reading. Comics as such Asterix and Richie Rich were pretty much available. It’s not like I loved a plethora of comics but when I went to Japan, there was this whole world I was missing on. I have always been an avid reader and I felt that why had I never ever got a chance to explore this. Asterix will always be very close to my heart for having grown up with it. Or even like a Calvin and Hobbes. There are cooler characters I have encountered since then but these I feel you can get back at any point of time.”
Comics over a cup of coffee
The café has undergone many avatars. They started off with serving only sandwiches and maggi that were cooked in a pilot kitchen. Seeing the overwhelming response, the café branched into continental cuisine which was later followed by American delicacies. The team consists of 25 employees in the café arm and 3 employees in the library.
“I think the biggest challenge for me is getting organized and realizing you need to put a lot of systems in place. “
From learning about taxation and accounts, the dues one has to pay which are not realised while setting up, to the entire procedure involved, licensing proved to be one of the biggest challenges for Bidisha.
“We had opened one branch in Bangalore but logistically it was very tough to run and coordinate. It was a very new business and logistically it was already proving to be a nightmare. Now we have just one and we are quite happy with it.”
Her journey so far
While the café has got an amazing response, the library still has a niche audience. The change for comics is slow and the market is still growing but food being so universal, the café has taken off really well.
“During my lows, I just force myself to look at the positive because that time seems hard but everything I said and did was because I wanted some independence. I wanted more time of my own. Your troubles are also for yourself. The good things are also for you.”
Bidisha has got a little bit of everything throughout the journey. She has experienced great highs and worked with great people. Her adventurous yet exciting journey has helped her in figuring out how things work behind the scenes.
“I am just the kind of person who doesn’t think very far because any plan I make, then I change my mind. It’s best to take it one day at a time to be able to run an independent outlet which requires some time and supervision.”