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C’mon confess. How many of you have dreamt of starting your own book store? Surrounded by the smell of good books and better coffee, maybe even some German board games and weathered wingback chairs; your own cozy little nest of bibliophiles (iPads and Kindles not allowed). It’s a romantic city slicker dream (second only to starting your own restaurant) that lives on in a world where interior designers no longer make space for bookshelves in the living room. It’s a dream that Aashti Mudnani nurtured for six years before she finally quit her job last August and decided she would just go for it.

Lightroom, an airy, well-stocked book store for children and young adults, opened in a narrow Bangalore lane in Fraser Town last weekend. Like Mudnani, most of us discover the astounding world of children’s books when we become parents. “Six years ago it was impossible to find good children’s books," says Mudnani. So the new mother foraged the bountiful used-books stacks of Bangalore’s super-cool Blossom and Bookworm book stores and was taken aback at the variety in children’s publishing. There was no looking back once she and her graphic designer husband fell in love with the illustrations of Leo Lionni.

Of course the past few years have seen a boom in home-grown children’s books too. According to the website for the annual children’s publishing trade event Jumpstart, this is one of the fastest growing segments and makes up between 34-40% of total publishing output. “Yet it is still an area of ‘book hunger’ with many more potential readers and buyers than books being published," the website says. Some publishers like Tara Books and Katha have well-designed outlets where they sell their titles. Children’s libraries are also on the rise; Bangalore has IQ, Hippocampus and Just Books. Bombay has book stores such as Kahani Tree, Butterfly Books, Spellbound and reading rooms such as MCubed. Book stores like Kitab Khana, in Fort, have a bright reading area for children. Eureka (book store), Reading Caterpillar (book club) and Bookaroo (annual children’s book festival) are favourites in New Delhi. Our March cover story, Twilight Generation, predicted a big year for young-adult writing in English.

Babyjaan has always been gifted amazing books. It’s one of the advantages of being a late parent; you get the best hand-me-downs from your sharp friends. Pratham Books, Katha, Tulika Books, Tara Books and Young Zubaan are among my daughter’s favourite local publishers. Icky Yucky Mucky (Young Zubaan), truly the most disgusting children’s book I have ever read (“Her nose was full of goo, her nappy full of poo"), is her favourite these days. And, unbelievably, any story from Tulika is a guaranteed hit (I added My Mother’s Sari and The Why Why Girl by Mahasweta Devi to her growing Tulika pile after visiting Lightroom and we immediately started reading both at least three times a day).

Lightroom stocks all these publishers and much more. There’s everything from Bangalore-produced books by the Little Latitude and the Daily Dump to gorgeous French and Japanese offerings, plus some lovely assorted extras such as clothes from Grasshopper’s range for children. Thankfully, you won’t find anything that’s pink and plastic.

For six years Mudnani kept adding to her master wish list of children’s books. She discussed the idea with friends and family, attended Jumpstart two years ago, enlisted the help of her trusted accountant to acquire essentials such as a VAT certificate, convinced a lawyer and a documentary film-maker to share the premises (and the rent), and collected the 7 lakh or so she would need to start and run her business for the next year. A friend laser-cut Eric Carle illustrations in sheet metal for lovely, custom-made lights, the books arrived, and she was good to go. I ask her how long it will take to break even. She smiles at me: “I have no projections. I’ll evaluate in a month. For now I feel like I’m walking on clouds." I guess that’s what happens when a dream comes true.

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