Tome Sweet Tome

Published: 24 October, 2011 09:28 IST | Meher Marfatia |

A suburb parched for a dedicated children's library finally slakes its thirst with M Cubed, the bright new hub for young bookworms in Bandra. Meher Marfatia meets them

A suburb parched for a dedicated children's library finally slakes its thirst with M Cubed, the bright new hub for young bookworms in Bandra

Walk in to wish you were born this century. Growing up in the 1970s in the Queen of the Suburbs was magical, but who dreamt of such a space? The Maharashtra Mitra Mandal (M Cubed) Library beside Bandra Gymkhana comes as manna for the 0 to 16 age group.

Space Haven Kids can lounge around the 4,000 sq feet space and
pick up any book from Noddy to Roald Dahl's works through the day

The brainchild of three friends with a shared vision Vibha Kamat, Sonal Bimal and Vaishali Shinde its interiors are refreshingly roomy, cheerful and cosy.

Children romp freely across this 4,000 sq ft space before flopping on giant floor cushions with a Dr Seuss caper, to discover the exciting first flush of a lifelong passion for the printed word. Shuffling teenagers chill equally at peace in secluded corners, soaking in all the angst of a Kafka novel or Anna Perera's Guantanamo Boy.

Shelf Life For All
Slim paperbacks to voluminous tomes, the barely month-old M Cubed serves a feast of close to 5,000 carefully culled books by writers from Virgil to Wodehouse. Kids stream in steadily as the evening wears on. After school hours this is their leisure fix, to find, bind and unwind themselves from the day's exertions.

M Cubed pulls off what even families blessed with bookworms can't always manage: to keep young readers habitually hooked. On his first day, three-year-old Varun already claims clear favourites.

Eyes shining, the toddler asks library manager Medha Irani to renew a Noddy treasury and counting book his mother borrowed for him. The place has made Sonal's daughter Sia an avid book-a-day reader, while Vibha's son Sahir tracks the shelves with knowledgeable familiarity.

Sonal Bimal, Vibha Kamat and Vaishali Kamat set up
M Cubed about a month ago

A sensibly wider selection welcomes 10 to 12 year-olds. At that hypercritical stage, tilting into the teens, technology often steals a seductive hold that pushes books to the back burner. Beside masters CS Lewis and Roald Dahl, a line-up of gems for pre-adolescents veers between light romance and deep debate, including the wise fun of Jacqueline Wilson's Midnight and Girls in Tears.

From usual suspects Enid Blyton and Ruskin Bond to interesting editions on cosmic treasure hunts and Hamlyn's classic Round the World Handbook, alphabetically arranged fiction and non-fiction is colour coded and labelled age-wise for easy browsing. Hindi and Marathi collections sprawl over some walls too.

The Sun and The Moon
Kid-friendly ideas abound at this literary haven. You are a "Sun" or "Moon" member depending on the number of books and magazines chosen. A gift voucher invites young friends to try using the library for two months. In the pipeline are meet-the-author sessions, theatre workshops and a reading club. Rinka D'Monte and Sanjana Shelat's design dexterity shows in the innovative decor.
Delightful animal-bordered lampshades hang warmly over green and blue book box shelves tilted to mad angles. They face Warli panels created by underprivileged children who visit M Cubed at no charge. Having said that, "Our goal is to make the library self-sustaining, not overly dependent on donations," Sonal appreciates supporters like Charles de Souza who helped with software and advice.

A "letter of the week" is put up, from a file of fan notes pouring in. Admirers include actors Naseeruddin Shah and Ratna Pathak, singer Shubha Mudgal, poets Gulzar and Mangesh Padgaonkar. An encouraging greeting comes From Irish author Roddy Doyle, ringing with magical realism to rank as a fine page of children's literature in its own right.

AT Princess Building, next to Bandra Gymkhana, Bandra (West)
CALL 26411497
TIME 4 pm-8 pm (weekdays), 10 am-8 pm (weekends), public holidays (Diwali, Christmas, summer breaks) 10 am-8 pm
MEMBERSHIP  Sun member (2 books, 1 magazine): Refundable deposit Rs 500, monthly membership Rs 100; Moon member (1 book, 1 magazine): Refundable deposit Rs 250, monthly membership Rs 100

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