One day a strange voice
asked me a strange question:
“How do you spot a Khasi?”¹
I gave it a strange answer.
Not by his mother tongue since
too many mothers and fathers
have rendered his tongue truly macaronic,
his features truly olla podrida.
Not by his dress since
he is truly universal.
Not by churches or temples since
he doesn’t have any.
Not by his religion since
they would simply label him “non-Christian”.
Not anymore as “a red-mouthed demon” since
kwai² stain has afflicted everyone.
Not by his syiems³ since
they rule like commission agents
and serve at the pleasure of scoundrels.
Not by his leaders since
they are the scoundrels.
A Khasi is a man, who once a year,
sports a muga-mulberry4 turban,
an eri shawl and is seen en grande tenue
at Weiking or Pomblang5.
Who once a year, speaks of these great festivals
and the teachings of his great ancestors.
Who once a year, says
“to Know Man—to Know God,
to Know Maternal-Paternal Relations,
to Earn Righteousness” is our faith.
But this, only once a year.
(1. A tribesman from Meghalaya, especially one still adhering to the indigenous faith; 2. Areca nut chewed with betel leaf and lime; 3. Khasi traditional rulers; 4. A type of silk. 5. Khasi religio-cultural dance festivals in spring and winter.)
A collection of Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih’s poetry, published by HarperCollins India, will be out next year.
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