The Edelweiss of Mirissa
Courteous, friendly and, most importantly, indulgent to a fault. That’s how manager Thilini Sewwandi signatures Edelweiss resort.
By Malinda Seneviratne
July 4 (Daily News): 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 1,000 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, Asiri Gunasekera.
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). That should have been enough. Edelweiss made it sweeter with excellent food and service. Courteous, friendly and, most importantly, indulgent to a fault.
That’s how Sewwandi signatrues 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.