Bang in the middle of Koramangala, Subodh and Lakshmi have their two-storeyed, beautiful heritage home. “We moved into an apartment a couple of years ago. Both of us were averse to the idea of converting this place into a PG accommodation or a service apartment. When we set out thinking, we felt it has to be a bookstore,” the couple recall. Certainly not a run-of-the-mill bookstore. Why not a regional languages bookstore? “On so many occasions, when we were looking for a Tamil book, we’ve had to really go hunting for it. A bookstore selling regional language books in a cosmopolitan city makes a lot of sense,” says Subodh.
But it’s a minority that reads and speaks in their mother tongue. “Making perfect business sense was not our sole idea. We are fortunate to have enough to live on and don’t want to get rich through this bookstore. Having said that I am also not willing to jump into conclusions about shrinking interest in the mother tongue. Let’s keep it open,” says Lakshmi positively. Subodh takes the opportunity to narrate a recent happening. “It was just the other day, I was lounging in my easy chair, and this rather young chap comes on a macho bike asking for books. I was so sure he had made the wrong stop. And to my surprise, he bought Kannada books worth Rs. 1200! Someone even came up asking for the complete collection of Poornachandra Tejaswi. ” In fact, when Subodh had insisted that they get a market survey done to find out if there would be takers for their bookstore, Lakshmi was staunchly against the idea. It was an uphill effort and it took them 13 months to put the store together. “We don’t want to be a Landmark or a Crossword. In a way defining our store has helped,” adds Lakshmi.
It’s important to enlarge the community of readers, and to get them interested in writings of other languages. Subodh and Lakshmi have planned a series of readings, poetry and story telling sessions, which will not only make possible an interaction with a diverse group of readers, but also culturally sensitise a reader to other languages. “I am a Tamilian, but I would certainly want to be in the audience of a Kannada reading,” says Subodh. Books are not about reading alone, it’s about an experience, enjoying the sounds and textures of other languages, feel the couple. “Our space is available to others who share our views. It could be visual arts, performing arts… anything. We will charge them a registration fee, and once the event is over, the money can be redeemed for books,” they explain.