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  • Writer's pictureSpeak Your Roots

"Ka Likai (An Ending Retold)" by Clarissa Giri

Calmly by the fire,

She sits staring at the flames before her.

Ember sparks burn freckles on weathered


Restless charcoal crackle uneasily in the dpei,

While vapour fumes from her drenched


Smoke and ash cling to her damp hair,

A hot tear makes its way down her cheek,

The wait glistens bloody at her heel,

And she watches the shadows form on the

wall before her

As her ancestors dance for war.

The rueful dish cooked to perfection,

She feeds him a mouthful of this concoction-

A stew of his own fingers; there will be no


How he tossed her daughter's tiny fingers like

refuse in the shang-kwai,

No. This butcher will devour his.

There is a Khasi folktale about a widow named Likai who had a daughter whom she loved more than life itself. She was remarried after some time, to a man who later turned out to be abusive and dangerous and who eventually murdered her only daughter, while Likai was toiling in the fields. He butchered her and cooked a stew with the remains which Likai ate unknowingly. She found out after her meal when she was about to consume "kwai", a combination of betel leaf, lime and areca nut (a traditional edible) where she saw the remains of her daughter's fingers in the "shang-kwai" (areca nut basket).
This caused a cacophony of chaos in her, driven by immense heartbreak and in a rage she ran after the man with a "wait" (a Dao or large bladed knife). Being unable to find him, in her madness-driven rage and being unable to endure life because of such a tragedy, Likai threw herself off of a waterfall. The waterfall is named after her fall "Noh Ka Likai" falls (Literally, Where Likai Jumped).
This poem is a twist on that ending, as folktales go, there is always an ending of "What if?" and in this one there is no mention about what happened to the murderer and if ever he was given what he deserved. In this poem, I ask what if Likai found her daughter's murderer cowering in the forests of "Sohra" (Cherrapunji), and she was able to avenge her daughter before deciding upon her own fate?
"Dpei" - hearth, "Kyrshah" - traditional khasi apron
Caption and original artwork by @yellowflower_poetry


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