Friday, December 29, 2023

Living life in restaurants

Photo: Bridgesward/Pixabay

Philip Rosenthal, the American television writer, producer and creator of the sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond and presenter of food and travel documentaries I’ll Have What Phil’s Having and Somebody Feed Phil, says: “We live life in restaurants, it’s the centre of social life, where we celebrate with family and friends, make new friends, travel without travelling, and of course, eat.”

That is so true. We go mall shopping and eventually head for the food court. We go to the movies and eat popcorn and ice cream in between the scenes. We go to a coffeehouse and huddle together over laptops, coffees and croissants. We break for lunch and share our meals in the office cafeteria. Not to mention all the dinners and parties we have with family and friends in restaurants and outdoor venues.

We live life in restaurants because in a way life tends to revolve around food and conversations. It’s where people unwind, deals are struck, proposals are made, relationships are broken, jokes are told, laughter is plentiful, special occasions are celebrated and fresh memories created.

So much beyond eating happens in a restaurant. From celebrations to heart-to-heart talks, it’s the go-to place for social and emotional rendezvous, making new connections and deepening old ties.

In the few hours we spend in restaurants, we forget our worries and share joyous moments over food and drink with the people we meet without travelling. In that sense restaurants are a comfort zone of food, relaxation and pleasant familiarity.


Saturday, December 23, 2023

The day I stopped reading newspapers

Before Covid-19, I used to read a dozen newspapers almost every day—an old journalistic habit. Now I read none. I had cancelled the only newspaper subscription I had even before the pandemic. I miss the paper, not for the news, but for wrapping things.

These days I read news online on my laptop, mostly via media websites and aggregators; though I'm not always happy with what the algorithms throw up. Both in terms of the news content and the way it is reported.

For example, I have absolutely no interest in reading an "Exclusive!" about a couple of actors arriving in some city for someone's birthday party. Paid news? Or paid algorithm? If there's such a thing.

Also, like the palm of the hand, there are always two sides to a story. Unfortunately, that's often not the case. "What does the other side have to say?" The news report doesn't tell me. Probably because the other side wasn't asked. That's not fair.

My tab is a very convenient place to read. I have downloaded a few apps—Mint, The Economist, Moneycontrol, FT (London), Reuters, Bloomberg, WSJ, The Guardian (UK), BBC and CNN, The New York Times, Foreign Affairs and Foreign Policy, The Washington Post, AP News, Pocket and The New Yoker—which more than feed my curiosity for news stories and features, and other stuff. Some I subscribe to; others I read what's available for free.

In a way I have become my own news aggregator. Curating and gathering news, views and perspectives that I want to read. No longer bound by the limitations of what was often a depressing front page.

© Illustration: Arturo Navarro/

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Clash of the Press Titans

If you simply enjoy humour, you will get this. If you're a part of the media, public relations or communications field, perhaps even more.

*    *    *

One evening, Press Release and Press Note met in a bar. After a few drinks, Press Release, more cocky and boastful of the two, got up to leave. And then, a funny thing happened.

Press Note: "Where are you going?"

Press Release: "To shoot myself off to the media. I have several deadlines to catch."

Press Note: "Oh, that reminds me, I need to grab the media's attention, too."

Press Release: You? Seriously! A waste of time. You sit here, drink some more, and figure out who you are and what it is you do. Here, it's on me."

Press Note: "Hey, I know who I'm and what I do — you condescending jerk!"

Press Release: "Do you? Do you really?! I don't think so!

As Press Release turned to leave, Press Note, as boiling mad as a boilerplate, got off the stool and lunged at him. The two grappled and rolled on the floor. Headlines were torn, datelines were ripped off, quotes were shred to bits.  

Three journalists, drinks in hand, stood watching the feuding pair in the circle of cheering onlookers, some of whom were placing bets.

"There's our front-page story," one of them said, whipping out his phone and taking pictures.

"Yeah," replied another. "I can see the headline: WORDS FLY AS PRESS RELEASE AND PRESS NOTE CLASH IN HILARIOUS BAR BRAWL"

"Wonder who's gonna issue a press statement," said the third.

© Prashant C. Trikannad

Thursday, September 07, 2023

Why I chose to give away my books

Some of the abandoned paperbacks.

Each one of us has a unique relationship with books. We have so many anecdotes and stories to tell about the books we buy, collect, read, hoard and never read. Till, one day, something — I don’t know if it’s age, wisdom or common sense — propels us into doing what was once out of the question: Downsize our collection. Give away books we have been holding onto for god knows how long. Free up space, in cabinets, on shelves, up in the loft. And start again, one book at a time. Go back to the basics of reading.

At least, that was my plan.

I owned very few books in my youth, the years between 14 and 25 when I read the most number of books. In those days I read novels in just two or three sittings; sometimes in half a day and started on a new one by night. I borrowed my books from private circulating libraries, British Council Library and American Library. Then somewhere down the years, my career and family life took precedence. I stopped going to the libraries owing to the distance and lack of time, and instead started buying books, more than I could read. Not that anyone or anything stopped me from reading like I did before.

Over the next three decades, I accumulated so many books that several of my mysteries, thrillers and westerns followed me to every new place of work, where they sat quietly in office desks and cabinets, and seldom got a chance to tell me their stories. Then came the tech-induced comforts and distractions and my goal to read a certain number of books and short stories every month – in other words, reduce my TBR pile – went out the window.

About a year after the onset of the pandemic, I decided enough was enough. We were in the middle of home renovation when I took an inventory of my collection and removed nearly two hundred books, which I eventually gave away to anyone who was interested or sold them to footpath booksellers at throwaway rates. I’d no other choice. Some of these books remained unread for years. My logic was that if I hadn’t read them up to that point, I sure as hell wasn’t going to read them now. Fortunately, most of the books I weeded out were secondhand and didn’t cost a lot of money, though the parting did hurt for a while.

Now I have fewer than a hundred books, mostly paperbacks of some of my favourite authors and a few nonfiction; the latter comprising a dozen books on the craft of writing by seasoned writers like Stephen King, Francine Prose, Ray Bradbury, Anne Lamott, Benjamin Dreyer, Annie Dillard and Bill Bryson. They’re my writing companions – offering valuable lessons from their own experiences of storytelling, and helping me both as a reader and a writer.

In these past three years, I have been compensating the “loss” of my books by purchasing ebooks or downloading them from public domain and online libraries. I read these on my Kindle and Samsung tablet. Of course, I also buy paper books – no more than half a dozen a year – from Amazon as well as secondhand booksellers and book fairs, depending on what I find. I haven’t bought a book in a new bookstore in years.

The thing about de-cluttering books, to borrow a phrase from George Bernard Shaw in another context, is the illusion that it has taken place. No matter how many books we discard, there are always plenty around the place. I guess the only way to pare down our books is to read them as soon as we buy them.

Thursday, August 31, 2023

A visit to a book fair in South Mumbai

My wife and I frequently travel to South Mumbai, roughly 22 km (17 miles) from our home in the suburbs, to spend a few delightful hours among its art deco buildings, historical landmarks, art galleries and cultural scenes; walk along the sea-facing promenades; visit footpath booksellers and book exhibitions; shop on the causeway; and eat at traditional restaurants.

The island city holds a special place for us and has an old-world charm that takes us into another time. You can read more about our recent trip to the island city at our new website Pocketful of Happiness.

Here are a few pictures from a book exhibition that we went to. There were literally thousands of books – fiction and nonfiction, paperbacks and hardbacks. Most books cost no more than a dollar or two. We bought a few. The book fair was organised by Ashish Book Centre and held near Churchgate, which serves as the headquarters of the suburban Western Railway network.


© All photographs by Prashant C. Trikannad

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Reading Ann Patchett

Excerpts frequently influence whether I should read books by authors I have never read before. That and a Twitter post is how I learnt more about award-winning American author Ann Patchett who writes both fiction and nonfiction.

I was drawn to her writing when I read about her latest book Tom Lake, which is described as a “Beautiful and moving novel about family, love and growing up” or in the words of The Guardian, “A truth that feels like life rather than literature.”

Those are the kind of books I have always enjoyed reading, and hope to write someday, now more so since my wife and I launched a website Pocketful of Happiness which stemmed from our desire to be happy (possibly, at all times) and spread a little joy among our readers. Books like these have a feel-good quality about them. 

Ann Patchett's writing has been variously described as warm, poetic, illuminating, rich, poignant, funny, powerful, compelling and stirring. This was evident from the many excerpts I read including this affecting passage from This is the Story of a Happy Marriage (2013):

“People seem able to love their dogs with an unabashed acceptance that they rarely demonstrate with family or friends. The dogs do not disappoint them, or if they do, the owners manage to forget about it quickly. I want to learn to love people like this, the way I love my dog, with pride and enthusiasm and a complete amnesia for faults. In short, to love others the way my dog loves me.”

It prompted me to buy the book along with These Precious Days: Essays (2021). Both are personal  and literary collections of essays and memoir.

I look forward to reading one of these books as soon as I finish Agatha Christie’s The Murder on the Links