By Auswyn Winter Japang
It is said that most Khasi practices have their origins in their folktales. Numerous social customs which are still highly regarded and practiced in Khasi society have their roots in the tales and legends passed down from one generation to another and their place in modern Khasi society are still tremendous.
It is from a particular legend about a man named Ren who falls in love with a river nymph that one household practice which is very much adhered by the Khasis, even today, came into being. Perhaps, many are not even aware now that such a practice has its roots in a folktale. Fewer still might have the habit of doing so without knowing the real reason behind their action.
According to the legend, the river nymph who was also in love with Ren was taken to his home to meet his mother. Ren's home was prepared and cleaned by his mother to welcome her future daughter-in-law but being forgetful, forgot to hide the broom from the guest's sight(the broom being a symbol of filth and muck) which offended the nymph when she saw it and made her leave the house with disgust.
This legend continues to be a part of every Khasi household even today but no longer as a story alone. Early mornings, houses would be dusted and cleaned, and the broom would then be kept somewhere out of the sight of the guests lest it offends them if they happen to see a broom which is a sign of great disregard.
The practice of hiding the broom after the house is dusted is still very much alive and living till today. It is amazing to see how hundreds of year's long tradition could still be seen alive and living in a twenty first century modern society. There is always an inclination to shift towards something new- that is what the history of the world often tells us. Here, however, we see instead a living memory still being a part of everyday life.