Fascinating Story Behind The Meghalayan Practice of Giving A Kwai To Visitors
Image Credit: Source: Betel nut exporter in Bangladesh/Facebook

Being a student of Delhi University, chatting in the lawns of Arts Faculty with friends during winters was a part of my daily routine. And, as obvious as it is, Delhi University is full of students from all walks of life hailing from different regions of India. One winter morning in 2019, I, along with some of my friends were chatting at the same place over a cup of chai. The topic of discussion that day was what will we do if we visit each other’s homes. As an Odia, I told that my mom will welcome each of them with a typical Odia breakfast consisting of Pakhala and Machha Bhaja. As the discussion went by, the one thing I stumbled at was when my Meghalayan friend told us that he will welcome us with a betel nut (Kwai in their regional language). The fact fascinated us as much as it shocked us. Upon being asked the reason behind the fact, she told us interesting folklore behind the traditional practice of welcoming the visitors with a Kwai. 

A legend has it that two friends remained loyal and faithful to each other till death. Transcending all the material barriers, a rich man befriended a poor man residing in one of the villages. The rich friend showered the other one with lavish gifts whenever he visited his home. One day, the rich friend decided to visit the other’s home. Upon finding their friend in their home, the poor couple searched for food to provide to their guest but couldn’t even find a grain of rice to give him. The man sent his wife to borrow some rice to make porridge but the woman returned empty-handed. To escape the embarrassment, the couple committed suicide. The rich man went to the kitchen to search for the couple and saw their dead bodies. Thinking that he cannot live without his friend, the man committed suicide too. Since this incident, the tradition of offering a betel nut or Kwai has been followed in Meghalaya to bridge the gap between rich and poor. 

The following mid-sem break, we went on a trip to Meghalaya and all of us smiled when our friend’s mom welcomed us with a hard betel nut.