On the eve of Good Friday,our families and neighbours gathered together at our house for a jolly evening. My aunts were welcoming the guests by offering them "Kwai" ( betel nut ) while my cousin sisters were providing the elders with a hot cup of tea with some baked cookies. "Oi Lung!" my sister called me out.
"Why don't you play us some guitar?"
I smiled hesitantly and as I was grabbing the guitar everybody in the room started to cheer me up.
"Yes, Lung play us some good melodies to sing with," the elders cheerfully told me. I took my guitar and began to play some good Gospels including our favourite "Ribaibal". We enjoyed singing a lot together,it was a joyous evening. Then our elders began to reminisce and shared with us some of their childhood stories.
"Kong Heh,why don't you tell us about the story of Mount Sophet Bneng?"; Asked my niece out of curiosity.
"Ahhhh a very nice choice Sofi."; She replied.
Kong Heh started to narrate the story.
"Mount Sophet Bneng,Its name signifies the centre of heaven. At the time of the creation of the Earth,there grew a tall tree on the top of the hill reaching to the sky and was used by the heavenly beings as a ladder to ascend and descend between heaven and earth. At the early stage of the creation, the earth was uninhabited, but all kind of trees and flowers grew in abundance, it was a very beautiful and peaceful place and the heavenly beings often descended the earth to explore it's beauty and have a glorious time upon it. One fine day,they found that the land in the neighborhood of Sophet was very fertile and was most suitable for cultivation. The heavenly beings saw the potential of the fertile land and began to cultivate on it but they never stayed overnight on the Earth and ascended back to heaven according to the decree. Altogether sixteen families followed the pastime of cultivating the land. Among the heavenly beings there was one who greatly coveted power and was unwilling to remain the subject of his creator. He aspired to rule over his Brethren and was constantly seeking for an opportunity to unleash his ambitions.
One day it happened that only seven families of the cultivators descended the earth for cultivation whereas the other nine remained in heaven. When the cultivators were busy cultivating the land,the ambitious one covertly left his brethren and taking his axe with him,he cut down the tree of communication through which they could ascend the heaven so that the seven families could not return back to heavenly home.
Thus it was that mankind that came to live on the earth, and it is from these seven families - called by the Khasis “Ki Hinniew Skum” (the seven nests, or the seven roots)—who descended from heaven on that fatal day that all the nations of the earth were enclosed."
Fascinated by the story, Sofi asked Kong Heh; "So does that mean that we're the descendants of those heavenly beings?"
Kong Heh happily smiled and replied; " Yes my child,we all are the descendants of those heavenly beings and it is because of them we're blessed to have such a heavenly place to live in."
"Amen."; Everybody preached.
"What a glorious day it was," Said my uncle.
"Tell us more stories Kong Heh."; Sofi requested.
Kong Heh smiled and replied;"sure my love,but after a small break,lemme help others in the kitchen till then Bah Joseph will tell you more about our long lost tales of Meghalaya, isn't it Bah Joseph?"
Bah Joseph replied happily; " ofcourse,tell me what kind of a story would you like to hear?" This excited everyone present in the room. Some wanted to hear horror stories while some wanted to hear stories of legends.
Bah Joseph then replied; "Okay don't worry,lemme tell you my favourite story." Everyone got excited and cheered for Bah Joseph.
Bah Joseph started to narrate the story.
" This story that I'm about to tell you is about a demon named U Ksuid Tynjang," Everyone got excited and the children began to sit closer to the elders.
"During the ancient times,the Khasis were known for it's beautiful hills and valleys but along with it there were many supernatural beings lurking deep inside the forests of the hills who were supposed to be working in the world either for good or bad. There were
Bleis (gods) of all grades, and Ksuids (demons or goblins) without number, and Puris (sprites or fairies). They were usually either visible or invisible,and could be encountered everywhere. One of the most renowned names in ancient lore is that of U Ksuid Tynjang, a misshapen and monstrous demon who haunted the forests and tormented mankind, and for his misdeeds had been doomed to suffer from an incurable and loathsome itching disease, which could only be allayed by the touch of a human hand. Most of the stories related to this dreadful and deformed evil are concerned with his malevolent personality and the tortures he inflicted on the victims he captured purposely to force them to rub his body and relieve the terrible itching to which he had been doomed. Anybody who would refuse or desist to perform this sickening task were to be tickled to death by his deformed and claw-like hands. To captivate people into his grasp,he used to imitate the human voice and shout "Kaw-Hoit! Kaw-Hoit!",a very common signal/cry used by the humans to find their lost companion or their way. Humane travellers quickly responded to this signal and for U Ksuid Tynjang this would open up the opportunity for him to capture them in his trap. In this way U Ksuid Tynjang was able to locate the lonely wanderers and thither he would direct his steady steps,hobbling and jumping through the forest until he encountered them and made them his captives.
In those days a great fair was held at the foot of the hills which attracted lots of khasi people across the country. But this fair mostly gathered the attention of younger folks who were fond of entertainment and were charmed by the exhibition of clothes that were brought there for sale. That day it happened that two young sisters named Ka Thei and Ka Duh, with their brother, attended one of these fairs in the company of some of their neighbours. It was their very first time visiting the fair and they were so amazed and thrilled that they lost the track of time and kept walking forward. The more they explored the fair the less they saw familiar people
around,and at one point they subconsciously drifted away from their friends. It was now growing late and Ka Thei,the eldest sister, was feeling anxious. She thought that she could retrace their steps and if possible find their companions;but although they walked from one end of the fair to the other,they met nobody they knew. Now they began to walk fast and were looking for a sign to get back to their lost companions. By the time they reached the forests of Shillong,when they were just some miles away from their home,night closed upon them and they lost their way in the dense-dark jungle. It was hopeless to try and proceed any further as they couldn't trace their path out of the forest in this dark hour so the three young travellers sat down holding each other's hands crushed down with foreboding and fear.
Just then they heard a loud cry in the distance, "Kaw-Hoit!". They thought that it was the cry of one of their friends so the three folks screamed "Kaw-Hoit!" altogether in hopes of someone coming to their rescue. They could hear footsteps approaching towards them,and all of a sudden there was noise of hopping,and then a loud thud. But to their surprise it was no man or a human figure but it was the deformed and monstrous Ksuid himself upon which they realised that they had responded to the mimic-cry of U Ksuid Tynjang, whom they had often heard described, and against answering whose call they had often been warned. As he was already there with them now, he ordered them to rub his itching body with their hands. Although they sickened at the contact, they knew better than to disobey, for U Ksuid Tynjang was known to be very cruel, tickling to death those who dared to disobey him. It happened that the young brother escaped being seen by the demon and was not noticed by him at all. Ka Thei took this for their advantage as she had a pretty wicked yet resourceful mind. She motioned for her brother to squat down on the ground behind her and she hastily took off the knup (a leaf umbrella) which was hanging from her shoulders,and covered him with it.
Upon being scratched soothed by the touch of the young maiden's hands,the Ksuid soon began to dose. With a little contrivance, Ka Thei succeeded in approaching her brother, quickly stuck some shrubs in the knup, to make it look like the surrounding jungle, and whispered to him to crawl away as soon as the dawn broke, and seek the path to their village to carry the news of their fate to their parents, and bid them offer sacrifices to the god of Shillong, in whose territory they had been captured, for their deliverance.
With the help of shrub-covered knup,the young boy managed to escape the place unobserved. Upon reaching the home he told everything to his parents and they began with the ritual of sacrifices to U ’Lei Shillong for the deliverance of their daughters.
The sisters then were taking their turns to do the unpleasant task of scratching the demon's back. To keep themselves warm,one of the sisters began to collect dry leaves and kindled some fire to feel less afraid. As she was searching for some fresh wood for the fire,she found a large and heavy Dao (an axe-knife) which she then showed to her sister, who at once took it as an augury that deliverance was forthcoming, and that the god of Shillong was working for them. She at once began to think of a plan whereby the dao might be useful to break the spell of the demon and to free her sister and herself from his power.
She heated the thick blade red-hot while the Ksuid slumbered, and, taking it by the handle, she seared his body with the hot iron, and the Ksuid died.
U Ksuid Tynjang could no longer resume the form of a demon as he had formerly done, but he could assume some other form and remain in his old haunts. The form he chose was that of a Jirmi - a creeper of a tough and tenacious nature which entangles the feet of hunters when they
run in the chase, and saps the life out of the forest trees, and destroys the plants cultivated by mankind. This plant is known to this day as the Tynjang creeper."
"So children, always obey what your elders say and never roam far from your home."; Added Bah Joseph.
Everyone was horrified upon hearing the story, especially the kids so they went to sleep early after having their meal.
Kong Heh returned to the room with a tray filled with cookies and asked whether she missed something to which we all laughed and replied; "you just missed the best story we've ever heard!"
Kong Heh smiled politely and replied; "ahh! Now you all don't wanna miss these delicious cookies,don't you?"
"Not at all Kong Heh!"; I replied out of excitement.
And then we began to have those delicious cookies with some tea. What a pleasant evening it was.
After everyone left the house I began to wonder that there are still so many stories untold and unheard of that blossomed in our very own land of Meghalaya. This inspired me to do some more research on it and hopefully Kong Heh and Bah Joseph will help me to find more authentic and beautiful stories originating from Meghalaya.