Sunday, January 05, 2014

And That is Why They Offer You Betel Nut

Once upon a time, long, long ago, there was a rich man in a village. There was also a poor man in the same village. The poor man lived with his wife. The rich man must have also had a wife, but she is not part of this story. 

The rich man used to invite all his friends and feed them well and give them kiad to drink. The poor man also was part of this group. After many months of enjoying the rich man's hospitality, the poor man began to feel bad about not reciprocating. So one day, he invited the rich man to come to his humble home. The rich man came. The poor man's wife realized that there was no food or drink in their home to offer to the rich man. Ashamed at not being able to feed their guest, she killed herself. 

The poor man came into the kitchen looking for his wife and saw her dead. Realizing what had happened, he was deeply ashamed as well and he also killed himself. The rich man waited for the poor man and the poor man's wife for sometime. Not hearing from them, he also entered the kitchen in the poor man's humble home and saw both the poor man and the poor man's wife dead. He realized why they had killed themselves and was sad that they had died because of him. So he also killed himself.

There was a thief who was running from some villagers who were chasing him. While trying to find a place to hide, he came to the poor man's house and hid there. He fell asleep. The next morning, he saw the three dead people and he got worried that the village people would think he had killed the rich man, the poor man and the poor man's wife. So he also killed himself.

Later, the elders sat around in the dorbar talking about this incident. After talking and talking, they made a decision. They decided that no man, however rich or poor, should feel ashamed about not being able to offer his guests something. So from then on, it came to be that every guest in every house would be offered kwai. The pale red betel nut symbolized the poor man's wife, the betel leaf was the poor man and the sliver of lime smeared on the leaf was the rich man.

And that is why in every Khasi household, they still offer you some betel nut to chew.

~ Retelling of a Khasi folktale

No comments: