Thursday, February 22, 2024

Joys of keeping an address book

by damith
February 11, 2024 1:02 am 0 comment 531 views

By R.S. Karunaratne
An elderly man with his address book

My granddaughter visited me last week and while we were chatting I asked if she had her aunt’s address. After she migrated to Australia I had lost contact with her. My granddaughter scrolled through her smartphone while I was admiring her technological skills.

Today, children or even young adults do not keep address books and they are not freely available at most bookshops. I am not entirely techno-illiterate because I type on my laptop and send emails to many people and organisations. However, I am completely at sea when it comes to using a smartphone. I find it difficult to keep pace with its novel features.

“Here, grandpa, I found it. Shall I write it down for you?”

“Well, would you mind writing it in my address book?”

She looked at the address book curiously and said, “Grandpa, there is hardly any space to write the address. You have written so many addresses and telephone numbers. And you’ve scratched out some names. Why is that?”

“Oh, they’re no longer living.”

“You mean dead?”

“Yes, I can’t press delete, so I just scratch out the names and their addresses.”

She looked rather terrified and said, “That’s so sad.”

After she left, I flipped through the pages of my address book. Old memories filled my mind and I nearly broke down. Most of my classmates and friends have passed on. Like the French people I can only say, “C’est la vie!” ((That’s life)

Joyful moments

I never thought an address book would make me so sad. When I was young, I simply copied the addresses and telephone numbers in my address book. However, when I turned the pages, I realised that each entry reminded me of some joyful moments in my life. I thought an address book was a repository of lives lived, marriages, births, friendships and changes.

At 83, I have outlived some of my friends. I had to scratch out their names and addresses with a heavy heart. Some of them may have succumbed to various illnesses and left their loved ones not knowing where they were going. However, their children and grandchildren carry on their family names.

In the good old days, my address book encouraged me to send letters to some of my long-lost friends. Those days, the postage was five cents and I used to send letters asking how they were faring. Most of them were overjoyed to receive letters and some recipients sent me small gifts along with their replies. Regular writing of letters had its own rewards. I improved my writing skills tremendously. If not for the address book, I would have lost most of the fun.

The contact list in a smartphone is convenient, but it cannot hold memories the way a handwritten directory can. In the same way, a handwritten love letter is more effective than an email or an SMS. The smartphone does not have the human touch found in an address book.


In the Digital Age, an address book may look like an anachronism. However, there are many reasons why an address book should be kept. One of the primary advantages of an address book is the ability to keep track of all your contacts in one place. It is true that smartphones and computers offer digital contact lists. However, having a physical address book ensures that you have a tangible backup wherever you happen to be. An address book will help you to store addresses, telephone numbers and any other information about people.

Those who use smartphones and computers are aware that their digital devices can fail or get lost at any moment. If you leave your smartphone in a public place, someone will take it away. However, nobody will take away your address book if you leave it in a public place. A physical contact book will always give you a sense of security. If you lose your smartphone or experience system failures, you can still have access to an address book. Even if you keep contact details in your smartphone, it is always advisable to keep an address book which can be referred to whenever you need.

In an address book, you can clearly record addresses and telephone numbers. In addition, you can jot down important details about some people. Against the names I always mention their jobs and special skills. This will help you to call an electrician or mechanic in an emergency. What is more, recording personal notes about people will build stronger relationships and foster meaningful connections.

There are other advantages of keeping a physical address book. For instance, an address book can significantly contribute to your organisational efforts. You can record each person’s date of birth, anniversaries and other important events. Even a cursory glance at your address book will remind you that you should send a birthday card to someone or to send greetings on your friends’ wedding anniversaries. When you do such activities, people will have a high regard for you.


During natural disasters such as floods and power failures, digital devices serve no purpose. On such occasions, an address book will be indispensable. Therefore, even if you store information in a smartphone or laptop, it is advisable to keep a physical address book for easy reference.

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