05 December 2017

Sooriya Village: where everyone will soon know your name

There’s a song from the US sitcom ‘Cheers’ that has been playing in my mind for sometime. For no reason that I can identify, I should add.  This is how it goes:  “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they're always glad you came; you wanna be where you can see, our troubles are all the same; you wanna be where everybody knows your name.”

It’s about recognition, yes.  Recognition comes with frequency, naturally.  If you keep going to the same place for a long time and regularly too, then you end up getting to know others who are as regular and they get to know you in return.  It is also about belonging, and that’s a little bit different.

We revisit places we like, people whose company we enjoy — almost like favorite movies or books.  Each time we watch or read we discover and rediscover, we relive old delights and rejoice in new ones.  We identify ourselves with characters or moments or even particular lines or thoughts.  They grow on you.  

Sooriya Village has grown on me.  

A freelance writer, one might assume, can write from anywhere and just email the story.  True.  Some like to work in silence.  Some like it when there’s some non-intrusive stuff happening.  Conversation fragments, the occasional laugh or sharp exclamation, a bit of music and even chit-chats with random people can constitute a real-world-in-a-nutshell that makes for a nice ‘surround’ to the creative exercise.   Well, for me at least.  

Sooriya Village works for me.  It opens at 10.30 am but the gates are open at 7.00 am.  All I have to do is walk in, find a place to sit and read or write.  Or just be.  There’s enough green and enough nature-sounds to color the place with music until those who are tasked to play the ‘real music’ come in and do their thing.  

There are open and closed places and depending on the mood I can choose either, the latter after about 9.30 am.  Sometimes the quietness of the library beckons, but most times I like to sit outside.  A pot of tea or roti with butter and pol-sambol is what I would order, but most times I just sit and work.  The people who work there ask me what I want and if I say ‘just a glass of water’ they’ll just give it and won’t give me any hard looks.  Just smiles and a few words and even this only if I was in the mood for chit-chat.  They don’t bother me and I try not to trouble them too much.  

Sanchitha Wickramasooriya, the young man who runs the place, never fails to check on me from time to time to ask me if there’s anything I need.  Most times he would give me a thumbs-up sign and an inquiring look and I would reciprocate with a smile and a nod of head that indicated I was fine.  And he does that with everyone.  

Sometimes his father Udena, who is more politically inclined, would stop by for a chat.   There’s a lot we can and do talk about.  One day it would be politics.  One day, environmental issues and tree planting projects.  On another occasion we would talk about the arts, especially music.  Most days, however, he would, like his son, acknowledge presence and go about his business, as I go about mine.

If someone wants to meet me, I say ‘Come to Sooriya Village at such and such a time.’  Some know the place, some have heard or it and some have to be given directions.   I’ve seen people I know coming here for a meal or just to meet someone.  

It draws a certain kind of individual.  And keeps him or her.   The ambience helps.  There’s green, there’s openness, there’s music.  Slow-paced.  Relaxing.  There’s an ‘art presence’ that is signatured here.  Part of it is architectural, with recording and pratice studios and a mini-stage that is used for performances of all kinds, music as well as literary events.  It’s a place that painters  might very well feel was made for them and them alone.  The same would go for poets and other writers.  Sooriya Village, after all, organizes all kinds of events that are of interest to different kinds of artists and art lovers and even if there’s no event on the cards you can still walk in and be convinced that this place is for you and people like you.  

It’s a place that makes you feel belonged.  Both ways.  It belongs to you and you belong to it.  Everyone will get to know your name by and by and then remember it too.  A place where sunlight bends into music and poetry, scrambles into flavor and fragrance, transforms itself into conversation fragments that can be pieced together as a story or a sculptural masterpiece or maybe congeals into a thought or insight that had been refusing to concretize for some time.  

It’s my office.  For now.  A place where everyone knows my name.