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Third Places enhance 'Quality of Life'

Updated: Feb 13

Humans are social animals who band together in cohesive groups called tribes or communities. This provides safety, companionship, pleasure, learning, livelihood and profit to individuals.

Typically a community comprises about 500 to 1000 individuals, connected by factors, such as religious faith, profession, extended family, sport, politics, etc.

Communities vitally need venues where people can meet in a neutral environment and in an informal manner for individuals to socialise. Such a venue we could call a 'third place.'

The first place is where people reside, at their homes, the second place is where people go to work, and the third place is where people go to socialise.

Communities with vibrant third places develop into centres of shared learning, art, culture, sport and wellness where people enjoy a much higher standard of quality of life.

What are the requirements for a third place?

There are generally eight factors that are typical of third places.

Neutral ground

Occupants of third places have little to no obligation to be there. They are not tied down to the area financially, politically, legally, or otherwise and are free to come and go as they please.


Third places places no particular importance on an individual's economic or social status in a society. There are no prerequisites or requirements that would prevent acceptance or participation in the third place.

Preparing Langar at a Community Kitchen at a Sikh Gurdwara

Conversation is the main activity

Playful and happy conversation is the main but not the only activity in third places. The tone of the conversation is usually light-hearted and humorous;

Accessibility and accommodation

Third places are open and readily accessible to those who occupy them. They are also accommodating, to meet the wants of their inhabitants.

The regulars

Third places harbour a number of regulars that help give the space its tone, and help set the mood and characteristics of the area. Regulars assist newcomers to feel welcome and accommodated.

A low profile

Third places are characteristically wholesome. The inside of a third place is without extravagance or grandiosity, and has a homely feel.

The mood is playful

The tone of conversation in third places is never marked with tension or hostility. Instead, they have a playful nature, where witty conversation and frivolous banter are not only common but highly valued.

A home away from home

Occupants of third places will often have the same feelings of warmth, possession, and belonging as they would in their own homes. They feel a piece of themselves is rooted in the space, and gain spiritual regeneration by spending time there.

Urban centres with large populations are mushrooming everywhere. People struggle to find third places which are becoming increasingly rare, if not extinct.

The desire of governments to monetise any and every available square meter of public space, makes it difficult if not impossible to create vibrant communities.

There is a mistaken notion that malls, and cinema halls etc. are good third places. A large number of people flock there and are physically present but are intellectually and socially disconnected.

Life without community has produced, for many, a lifestyle consisting mainly of a dull lifeless home-to-work-and-back-again shuttle.

Even where there are some third places available, people rarely find the time to socialise.

Shifts from large joint to small nuclear families, and non-stop 24-hour work timings, have also taken a big toll on families and communities.

Couple this with stress created by authorities, the total disregard by governments, town planners, encroachment, unsafe environments etc. has extensively damaged if not destroyed communities.

What are third places available to Indians?

Places of religious worship are the most popular third places in India. They often provide the only succour available to people, for safe socialising. Whilst Priests demand seriousness in prayer and conversing with God, the real third place is outside or near the place of worship where people.

The marketplace, village and town fairs, and celebrating festivals, offer some form of community space. Tend to be fun but does not satisfy fully the third-place needs of individuals.

'Adda' a common tea stall

There are still some third places left these days. Some that come to mind are canteens, tea stalls, temples, dhabas, playgrounds, street corners, beach communities, prayer groups, community kitchens, etc. singing clubs,, parks, for the simple people. Then for others, there are tea /coffee shops, bars and restaurants, sports and recreational clubs, sports facilities, etc.

The social well-being and psychological health of individuals depend upon communities which can only exist where there are vibrant third places.

Third places are not a choice but are a vital necessity and a precondition for healthy communities. For they create habits of public association and offer psychological support to individuals and communities.

Nation-states are a relatively recent phenomenon. Historically the real building blocks of humanity and a successful civilisation are the family and community.

Civilisations and governments should be judged by how well they satisfy the safety, livelihood, etc. needs and the quality of life of individuals and communities.

Third Places build strong and resilient communities, and that is the bedrock of a strong, tolerant, peaceful, healthy, vibrant, civilised world. And that is the best legacy we can leave our children.


Pavit Singh launching the world-famous Peter Burwash International Tennis program at Ileseum Club

Our son Pavit and his friend Nikhil Dubois founded Hotfut Sports in 2011 and then Pavit founded Ileseum Clubs. Like most parents, I could not figure out what it was that our son was trying to do and achieve. He then wrote this piece to explain how he was setting up many clubs to build a better world, by reinforcing bonds between members of a community.

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