04 July 2023

The Edelweiss of Mirissa

I might have come across the name ‘Edelweiss’ and learned that it is the national flower of Switzerland sometime in my life, but thanks to the movie ‘Sound of Music’ and the song by that name (written by Oscar Hammerstein, Robert Spielberg and Richard Rodgers)  I not only knew about it as a child but the name and the song are among my earliest memories.

In the beginning it was just another word, not even a name. Later my father told me it was a name and a flower. Goscinny and Uderzo, in ‘Asterix in Switzerland’ taught me that it is Switzerland’s national flower.

Here are some technical details for those who may be interested in such things:

Edelweiss (Leontopodium nivale) is a mountain typically found in altitudes between 5,000 and 10,000 feet above sea level. It has ‘yellow florets and white, spiky foliage that appears in a spiky star shape and is a member of the daisy family.’ The name is derived from the German words Edel (noble) and Weiss (white). Some call it Wollblume (wool flower) because of the fuzzy wool-like foliage. Apparently, and I learnt this just now, the Edelweiss ‘is not a flower but a set of between 500 and 1000 tiny florets groups in several hearts with white velvety leaves.’

Technicalities. Like the Swiss connection. I’m talking about Mirissa. I am in Mirissa. And there’s a Swiss connection here as well.

It’s a modest and yet comfortable and happy place. Clean and bright. Small, relatively, and white. And it is called Resort Edelweiss, so named by the original owner who apparently is a Swiss national. Off the main road at the end of  Kalugalluwa Road, with a lovely seafront, a pool and excellent food, Resort Edelweiss has been a favourite place to visit for many years. I’ve always been treated well there and not only because it is owned by a school friend I’ve known for over half a century who prefers not to be mentioned.

P K Balanchandran, senior Indian journalist, friend and long time resident in this island of ours,  like me and probably most who have spent time here, is highly appreciative. I didn’t know that ‘Bala’ knew of this place, but Thilini Sewwandi, Manager of Resort Edelweiss with almost eight years of experience in hotel management, aware that I write to newspapers asked me about him and showed me a picture. Yes, he was the same 'Bala,' our ‘Bala’. So I took a selfie with Sewwandi and sent it to him.

Bala’s comment on Edelweiss echoed what I knew of the place: ‘The staff at the resort, capably led by Sewwandi, have excellent PR skills. You must tell your pal to keep the resort going. They are doing a good job even when the market is down.’ He added in a subsequent message, ‘it is a pin kama in these hard times.’

Sewwandi. It refers to flowers that bloom in clusters with petals parallel to the ground. Not at high elevations, true, but the lady has certainly elevated and made a resort that much brighter. This Edelweiss, the resort and the lady, has always made me feel that somehow there’s happiness in just seeing me. It’s not some ‘must’ picked up in some course on hospitality or through sheer experience, although that’s probably part of it. There’s joy in service that’s unmistakable.

On this off-season occasion, Edelweiss was hosting a dozen men almost 60 years old who’ve known each other for more than 50 years, i.e. since they were in the first grade or, in the case of a few of them, since grade six. Reunion. Reminiscing. Music. Singing (and there were some good voices too). Should have been enough. Edelweiss made it sweeter with the excellent food and service. Courteous, friendly and, most importantly, indulgent to a fault.

That’s how Sewwandi signatures the resort.

Sewwandi lives in Weligama but Mirissa is also her home. Her homeland. She made us feel that it now belongs to us as well. More importantly that we belong to Mirissa. Our home now. Our homeland. Blessed. Blessed by Edelweiss. The Edelweiss of Mirissa. That’s Sewwandi. 


['The Morning Inspection' is the title of a column I wrote for the Daily News from 2009 to 2011, one article a day, Monday through Saturday. This is a new series. Links to previous articles in this new series are given below]

Other articles in this series:

The insomnial dreams of Kapila Kumara Kalinga

The clothes we wear and the clothes that wear us (down)

Every mountain, every rock, is sacred

Manufacturing passivity and obedience

Precept and practice

Sanjeew Lonliyes: rawness unplugged, unlimited

In praise of courage, determination and insanity

The relative values of life and death

Feet that walk

Sarinda's eyes

Poetry and poets will not be buried

Sunny Dayananda

Reunion Peradeniya (1980-1990)

What makes Oxygen breathable? 

Sorrowing and delighting the world

The greatest fallacy 

Encounters with Liyanage Amarakeerthi

Beyond praise and blame

Letters that cut and heal the heart

Vanished and vanishing trails


A forgotten dawn song from Embilipitiya

The soft rain of neighbourliness 

The Gold Medals of being

Jaya Sri Ratna Sri

All those we've loved before

Reflections on waves and markings

A chorus of National Anthems

Saying what and how

'Say when'

Respond to insults in line with the Akkosa Sutra

The loves of our lives

The right time, the right person

The silent equivalent of a thousand words

Crazy cousins are besties for life

Unities, free and endearing

Free verse and the return key

"Sorry, Earth!"

The lost lyrics of Premakeerthi de Alwis

The revolution is the song

Consolation prizes in competitions no one ever wins

The day I won a Pulitzer


Ella Deloria's silences

Blackness, whiteness and black-whiteness

Inscriptions: stubborn and erasable 


Deveni: a priceless one-word koan

Enlightening geometries

Let's meet at 'The Commons'

It all begins with a dot

Recovering run-on lines and lost punctuation

'Wetness' is not the preserve of the Dry Zone

On sweeping close to one's feet

Kumkum Fernando installs Sri Lanka in Coachella, California

To be an island like the Roberts...

Debts that can never be repaid in full

An island which no flood can overwhelm

Who really wrote 'Mother'?

A melody faint and yet not beyond hearing

Heart dances that cannot be choreographed

Remembering to forget and forgetting to remember

On loving, always

Authors are assassinated, readers are immortal

When you turn 80...

It is good to be conscious of nudities 

Saturday slides in after Monday and Sunday somersaults into Friday 

There's a one in a million and a one in ten

Gunadasa Kapuge is calling

Kumkum Fernando installs Sri Lanka in Coachella, California

Hemantha Gunawardena's signature

Pathways missed

Architectures of the demolished

The exotic lunacy of parting gifts

Who the heck do you think I am?

Those fascinating 'Chitra Katha'

The Mangala Sabhava

So how are things in Sri Lanka?

The most beautiful father

Palmam qui meruit ferat

The sweetest three-letter poem

Buddhangala Kamatahan

An Irish and Sri Lankan Hello

Teams, team-thinking, team-spirit and leadership

The songs we could sing in lifeboats when we are shipwrecked

Pure-Rathna, a class act

Jekhan Aruliah set a ball rolling in Jaffna

Awaiting arrivals unlike any other

Teachers and students sometimes reverse roles

Matters of honor and dignity

Yet another Mother's Day

A cockroach named 'Don't'

Colombo, Colombo, Colombo and so forth

The slowest road to Kumarigama, Ampara

Sweeping the clutter away

Some play music, others listen

Completing unfinished texts

Mind and hearts, loquacious and taciturn

I am at Jaga Food, where are you?

On separating the missing from the disappeared

Moments without tenses

And intangible republics will save the day (as they always have)

The world is made of waves


The circuitous logic of Tony Muller

Rohana Kalyanaratne, an unforgettable 'Loku Aiya'

Mowgli, the Greatest Archaeologist

Figures and disfigurement, rocks and roses

Sujith Rathnayake and incarcerations imposed and embraced

Some stories are written on the covers themselves

A poetic enclave in the Republic of Literature

Landcapes of gone-time and going-time 

The best insurance against the loud and repeated lie

So what if the best flutes will not go to the best flautists?

There's dust and words awaiting us at crossroads and crosswords

The books of disquiet

A song of terraced paddy fields

Of ants, bridges and possibilities

From A through Aardvark to Zyzzyva 

World's End

Words, their potency, appropriation and abuse

Street corner stories

Who did not listen, who's not listening still?

The book of layering

If you remember Kobe, visit GOAT Mountain

The world is made for re-colouring

The gift and yoke of bastardy

The 'English Smile'

No 27, Dickman's Road, Colombo 5

Visual cartographers and cartography

Ithaca from a long ago and right now

Lessons written in invisible ink

The amazing quality of 'equal-kindness'

A tea-maker story seldom told

On academic activism

The interchangeability of light and darkness

Back to TRADITIONAL rice

Sisterhood: moments, just moments

Chess is my life and perhaps your too

Reflections on ownership and belonging

The integrity of Nadeesha Rajapaksha

Signatures in the seasons of love

To Maceo Martinet as he flies over rainbows

Sirith, like pirith, persist

Fragrances that will not be bottled 

Colours and textures of living heritage

Countries of the past, present and future

A degree in creative excuses

Books launched and not-yet-launched

The sunrise as viewed from sacred mountains

The ways of the lotus

Isaiah 58: 12-16 and the true meaning of grace

The age of Frederick Algernon Trotteville

Live and tell the tale as you will

Between struggle and cooperation

Of love and other intangibles

Neruda, Sekara and literary dimensions

The universe of smallness

Paul Christopher's heart of many chambers

Calmness gracefully cascades in the Dumbara Hills

Serendipitous amber rules the world

Continents of the heart