04 October 2023

When you don't need an invitation, it's 'home'

['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 the 230th article in the new series that began in December 2022. Links to previous articles are given below] 

There are probably thousands of quotable quotes about ‘home.’  Each house has a story. Indeed there can be many stories resident in or referring to the same house. It’s the same with homes. So this is not the home story; it’s a home story. One of many. In fact it is a composite of home stories, all relating to homes I’ve belonged to and homes that have made me feel belonged.

The defining feature of our home in Pamankada, to me, was that it was a place we could bring anyone to. The children, that is, my brother, sister and myself, were never told, ‘bring home your friends.’ We knew we could. And we did. I did, for the most part, actually.

While still in school, they stayed until their respective curfew hours, stated or otherwise, compelled them to leave. Later, as an undergraduate at the University of Peradeniya, the friends I brought home stayed the night. Sometimes several nights.

There were some occasions, very rare they were, when our mother was clearly not too happy about a bunch of young boys descending on her home without prior warning. She didn’t say anything though. She would become the warm and friendly host quickly enough.

So we adjusted. They ate whatever there was and were compensated for the deficiencies by the hospitality. They were all, without exception, treated as sons and brothers. It wasn’t for those few hours or days. Sometimes I wonder how on earth so many people could share that room at the same time. Typically it was two or three friends but sometimes even ten. It was a lifetime compact. It was a refuge for several of them during the bheeshanay of the late eighties. They arrived, they were welcomed and they stayed for more than a year.  The risks were obvious, but they were never mentioned by my parents. Even today, many decades later, my father asks about them. They visit when they can.  

There was something about that home and it had nothing to do with me or the friend I invited over without warning my poor parents. This I found out only at my mother’s funeral. Her favourite student, Arjuna Parakrama, who was like an older brother to all of us and who I invited to speak a few words, spoke about her, ‘Madam’ to him and all students, even those she never taught but who benefited from her kindness and generosity over the years, even after she retired. He spoke about that house. That home.

‘Everyone was welcomed in that house, without exception.’

In good times and bad. Two of her students, who for different reasons didn’t have a place to stay, would share our room for many months. Maybe over a year, I can’t remember.

The house was full of our neighbours in the green-black days of July 1983. I remember my mother informing my father, ‘they say that Sinhala houses where Tamils have taken shelter will also be attacked.’ Just information with an unspoken question. He replied, ‘They are our neighbours, that question does not arise.’

Today, forty years later, I am writing this from my sister’s house in Philadelphia. Her daughters are living in three different countries. They know that it’s a place anyone can be invited to. They say this to their friends, especially those who are in trouble of one kind or another.

‘Anyone can come here,’ she told me once. And people do come. I’ve seen them. They eat whatever there is. The deficiencies are compensated by warmth and generosity. They stay.

There’s that ‘home-vibe’ here. This is why her niece, my daughter, feels it’s alright to invite new found friends to her aunt’s place for Christmas ‘because they are from countries that are too far away.’ She has, as has her sister, brought friends home. They’ve asked ‘is it ok?’ even though they know the answer. Of course it’s ok. Anytime.
I’ve known and responded to this same home-vibe in the houses of my friends. Kusuma  Goonerawdena, the mother of my childhood friend (from Grade 7) Kanishka, treated his friends as though they were her sons. In fact she would treat the friends of these friends also like sons.  

I’ve walked into homes and hearts in Gampola, Wathurakumbura, Kiribathkumbura, Digana, Madadombe, Divulgane, Kuliyapitiya, Jambugahapitiya, Bowatte (Bingiriya), Dodangaslanda, Muruthalawa, Kumarigama (Uhana), Rambawa, Kelegama and Palugama (Galgamuwa), Balapitiya, Delft Island, Jaffna, Haldemmulla, Balangoda, Hakirilla (near Ibbagamuwa), Narangamuwa, Ampitiya, Meemure and other places I will remember shortly. I was Welcomed like a brother and a son, sometimes by people I had never known before.  

A few years ago, on one of the many excursions with my friend Tharindu Amunugama, after exposing the monastic remains at Kaudagala in the Polonnaruwa District, we decided it would be nice to ease ourselves into the cool waters of the adjacent vaeva. Kaudagala Vaeva.

It was late evening and the sun was setting. The elements were ready to retire, it seemed. There was a young girl washing clothes. She was with a little boy, her brother. As is custom, there was conversation. A second year student reading for a degree in Sinhala and the Colombo University, she said. I asked her if there’s a place for us to stay, since we never made plans during such journeys.

‘The temple,’ she said.

‘How about her?’ I asked, referring to the young woman who was traveling with us.

Eyaa inne ape gedarane,’ she said, simply opening her home and heart to her. 

Clearly she didn’t have to ask her parents if that would be alright. It was known that it was alright.  

‘Home is a place you can go to and they have to take you in.’ I’ve encountered that quote often.

I have known such homes.  


Other articles in this series: 

When the Canadian House of Commons applauded a Nazi...

Touching the touch-me-nots

The importance of not skipping steps

No free passes to the Land of Integrity

Hector Kobbekaduwa is not a building, statue, street or stamp

Rajagala and the Parable of the Panner

Let's show love to Starbucks employees!

You've got mail?

Octavio Paz and Arthur C Clarke in the stratosphere 

Enduring solidarities 

Coco 'Quotes' Gauff!

9/11 and the calm metal instrument of Salvador Allende's voice 

What a memory-keeper foregoes 

Whitman, Neruda and things that wait in all things

Thilina Kaluthotage's eyes keep watch

Those made of love will fly

Profit: the peragamankaru of major wars

Helplessness and innocence

The parameters of entirety

In loving memory of Carrie Lee (1956-2020)

Mobsters on and off the screen

Transfixing and freeing dawns

We're here because we're here because we're here

Life signatures

Sha'Carri Richardson versus and with Sha'Carri Richardson  

A canvas for a mind-brush

Sybil Wettasinghe's shoes

Love is...

A stroll with Pragg and Arjun along a boulevard in Baku

Meditation on tree-art

Daya Sahabandu ran out of partners but must have smiled to the end

Gentle intrusions 

Sleeping well

The unleashing of inspiration

Write, for Pete's sake

Autumn Leaves Safeness

 Sapan and voices that erase borders

Problem elephants and problem humans

Songs from the vaekanda

The 'inhuman' elephant in a human zoo

Ivan Art: Ivanthi Fernando's efforts to align meaning

Arwa Turra, heart-stitcher

Let's help Jagana Krishnakumar rebuild our ancestral home

True national anthems

Do you have a friend in Pennsylvania (or anywhere?)

A gateway to illumination in West Virginia

Through strange fissures into magical orchards

There's sea glass love few will see 

Re-residencing Lakdasa Wikkramasinha

Poisoning poets and shredding books of verse

The responsible will not be broken

Home worlds

Ownership and tenuriality of the Wissahickon

Did you notice the 'tiny, tiny wayside flowers'?

Gifts, gifting and their rubbishing

History is new(s)

Journalism inadvertently learned

Reflections on the young poetic heart

Wordaholic, trynasty and other portmanteaus

The 'Loku Aiya' of all 'Paththara Mallis'

Subverting the indecency of the mind

Character theft and the perennial question 'who am I?'


A degree in people

Faces dripping with time

Saji Coomaraswamy and rewards that matter

Revolutionary unburdening

Seeing, unseeing and seeing again

Alex Carey and the (small) matter of legacy

The Edelweiss of Mirissa 

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
The allegory of the slow road