KWAI: A humble and traditional bridge of hospitality in Meghalaya.
The act of serving kwai is one of the traditional offerings served out to the guests, family members, friends, and even strangers which form a bond and bridges people between the rich and the poor in the Khasi matrilineal society of Meghalaya without any discrimination.
kwai is being consumed or offered whether it is in happiness or sorrow. It is served both in celebrations or funeral, and so the Khasi people never run out of it. It is considered one of the important necessity in every Khasi household and a customary offering of the indigenous people of the state.
kwai has a history of its own, as per the Khasi folktale, there exists a friendship between a rich man and a poor one, the latter being heartbroken and ashamed on not having any food to served his beloved childhood friend committed suicide along with his wife. The friend knowing the act of sacrifice prompted him to take his own life as well, the Gods on seeing this blessed the people of the state with an abundance of areca nut and betel leaf as a way for the poorest people of the state to offer something to their guest visiting their homes without disintegrating their honor and respect,and thus kwai paved a way of social equality for the tribal people of the state.
Offering kwai to someone is an act of lending out a hand of friendship between two strangers, some believed that chewing kwai on your own when you travel alone keeps you accompanied as the chewing of kwai raises your blood circulation and also act as a blessing for the cold winters in the state.
kwai is such an integral part of the Khasi society that they even relate it with death and describe people who are no longer here in this world as “Bam Kwai Ha Dwar U Blei”( maybe translated as they are blissfully and peacefully chewing kwai in the house of God).
So if you’re in any part of Meghalaya, do try kwai and enjoy it.