Meghalaya: K for Khasi, K for Kwai


By Willie Gordon Suting

SHILLONG: Most of the tribes from North East India have always been a storytelling people and here is a story of how the Khasi tribe and kwai (in the local dialect) got interconnected.

Kwai, as the Khasis call it, when served to a guest or offered during funerals, marriages, and other gatherings, is how the Khasis welcome people.

Kwai can symbolise the forming of a bond or a display of good manners. Serving kwai to guests as soon as they enter one's home, instead of the usual glass of water, comes as a big surprise to those who do not know of this custom.

There are even fewer who know that there is a folktale leading to this tradition.

Once upon a time, God or U Blei looked down from the heavens and saw that a poor man (U Baduk) and his wife had killed themselves for not having any food to give to serve a dear friend who was visiting their home.

He hence blessed parts of the Khasi and Jaintia Hills with the betel-nut and paan leaf. U Blei then made it known to all that, henceforth, these plants would be cut and served with lime and served as compulsory offerings to guests in every home, rich and poor because he has made them available in abundance.

Thus, started the tradition.

Today kwai is an intricate part of the Khasi culture and is enjoyed by the rich and poor alike, as U Blei meant it to be.

Although research and statistics have shown that over-indulgence could lead to oral cancer and a host of dental issues, tradition is hard to let go. Especially one as delicious!