Just a few days ago we published a piece by Wanphrang Diengdoh on questions for Khasi identity. We knew that there would be others who would join the discussion. Bah Don Tmain, an online persona representing a group of self styled thinkers and artists of similar tastes, lifestyle, ideas, views… and shyness try to problematise Wanphrang’s questions and also queer up the pitch about the way certain knowledge of Khasi worldview suffers from its epistemological distance from its query.
So much questions has been asked and pondered upon by the caring few about the Khasi culture and ka niam tre and I can’t stop but join in the collective concern that we are heading somewhat into a maelstrom of identity crisis. Also a lot of resourceful individuals had come in and help clarify the queries of self reflection through social actions, extravagant and otherwise, but ended up disappointing a certain half of the populace while appeasing the other. The debates hence resulted rave on perpetually.
First, why is there a need to define religion? if the Khasis had their own, why do we need to compare ours to the others in order to quench our human lust for ruthless comparing and categorising? Then again most people would most probably hold the phrase say ‘unity in diversity’ in high regard. If we are to live in unity despite diversity I think we should let go off our fetish for labelling. Only Lazy people do.
I may not define our religion here in this piece, but I will attempt to clarify certain points as to how shall we answer, ‘Kaei ka Niam Tynrai?’ My indulgence in street talks and countryside chats with the ritual practitioners of the faith has led me to conclude that the Khasi religion or the believers takes the ontological value of every object (both the physical and the meta) in the cosmos with predominantly great importance. A true niam tre believer would not obviously even consider comparing his religion and philosophy to other’s. To him, everything has an ontological purpose or value, so does Ka Niam Tre.
So to define our own religion through the western eyes and not our own is to defeat its very essential philosophy. More like answering the door from outside the house. An ideal stance to be taken to define ka niam tynrai is to go deeper inside and stand at the core of its being, if one must.
Certain writings had popped up here and there inscribing inferences of a kind. They seem to convey that there is a need to have a mediator between the creator and the followers in order for a certain faith to be classified a religion. Bah Mohrmen, amongst others, also hints at such things in a recent essay (ST, Jan 25/16). It is somewhat contradicting to unfold the tapestry of ka niam tre with a christian ideologically-charged yardstick. Plus, there is no social consensus that says defining religion is important.
Then there are cries for a change as opposed by cries to conserve our culture. we had always been living in the median spot between the two. Change is inevitable. With change, a culture evolves. The question to be asked is: Should this evolution be guided by a few dominant minds? or should it be let to go how it is supposed to go, naturally, with a promise of a gradual acceptance by all?
To conclude my first piece at www.raiot.in, What I normally do at home is not tradition in a traditional sense. But then isn’t tradition a legitimate child of repetition? Who’s to say what among our daily social routine qualifies to be part of our tradition and what doesn’t?