Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Demoness with the Long Hands--Lai Khutsangbi

Do you know why the Ee-ka leaves are tinged with red? That's because Lai Khutsangbi, the demoness with the long hands, stained the leaves with her blood as she ran between the clumps of Ee grass...Here's what happened.

Long ago in Meitrabak, the land of the Meiteis, Lai Khutsangbi was a much feared name. The demoness was so named because she had the ability to elongate her hands at will. She used to prowl around the villages of Meitrabak and then catch unsuspecting livestock and even children. But Lai Khutsangbi managed to get away as she only targeted homes where the menfolk were away. Chaoba's home was one such home...his Dad, Chao-paa was away on a hunt and only Chaoba and his mom, Chao-maa were at home.

Chaoba was hungry and he wanted his mom to give him some attention. He started crying. His mom tried to console him and quieten him, but to no avail.

"Mom, I want to eat fish, when will you finish cooking?"

"Soon, my son, stop crying now, dinner will be ready soon."

"No, I want my food right now"

Suddenly they heard a knock on the door. Both of them became very quiet.

"Chao-maa, Chao-maa..." called Lai Khutsangbi.

"Who is it?" asked Chao-maa.

"Oh, it is me--is Chao-paa at home?"

Chao-maa noticed that Lai Khutsangbi didn't mention her name, and she guessed that it must be Lai Khutsangbi or some other evil spirit up to no good. So she lied,  "Yes, Chao-paa is at home." Hearing this, Lai Khutsangbi didn't tarry there and ran away to the fields, among the Ee-ka bushes.

The next night, Lai Khutsangbi was lurking around Chaoba's home again, hoping that Chao-paa would be away. Her intention was to snatch Chaoba away for her meal. She salivated at the thought of devouring the plump Chaoba. Mustering up courage, she knocked on Chaoba's door again and asked, "Chao-maa, Chao-paa at home?"

Now, Chao-paa was still on the hunt and hadn't returned, and Chao-maa lied again, "Yes, he is home."

Lai Khutsang-bi  ran away hearing this

The next morning,  Chao-paa and the men on the hunt returned. Chao-maa was overjoyed and relieved to see her husband home. She told him of Lai Khutsangbi's visit the past two nights and how she'd managed to keep her away. Chao-paa said, "Enough of this menace, we must teach her a lesson!" And then, the couple made a plan.

It was dusk. Lai Khutsangbi was back, lurking in the shadows. She was ravenous as she didn't get any prey the past two nights. She'd not slept a wink as hunger tormented her and she'd been watching the well-fed Chaoba play near his cottage with his friends. At one point, Chaoba nearly ran towards the bush she was hiding in, and she was about to elongate her long arms. Just then, Chao-maa called Chaoba in as the sun was about to set. Chao-maa said, "Chaoba, Chaoba, come home soon, it's almost night!" Chaoba ran home without wasting a moment.

Lai Khutsangbi cursed her luck. She decided that she'd try and catch Chaoba that very night, come what may. As soon as it was dark enough, she knocked on the door. And she asked, "Chao-maa, Chao-maa, is Chao-paa at home?"

"No, he's away, who is it?" said Chao-maa, signalling to her husband to keep his long sword, his thaangsang ready.

Lai Khutsangbi was overcome with glee. She peered around and saw what she was  looking for--a gap in the mud wall. She peeped into the cottage, but couldn't see anything except the phungga, the fireplace. She enlarged the gap so she could fit both her hands into it, and then, smiling, elongated her hands, and started groping around. Chaoba and Chao-maa were safely out of her way, having climbed onto the strong kitchen shelves. In a flash, Chao-paa chopped off Lai Khutsangbi's hands with his thaangsang, already sharpened from the hunt. The two hands lay bleeding on the floor after writhing in pain.

"Aah!" yelped Lai Khutsangbi. She looked down at the painful spot where her hands had been chopped off and saw she'd lost her hands. She cried in agony, "Chao-maa you lied to me, you said your husband wasn't at home, you said Chao-paa wasn't at home, oh, you lied to me!" Crying thus, she fled from the village into the Ee-ka bushes, and her blood dripped on to the Ee-ka leaves and stained them red. After that night, Lai Khutsangbi never troubled the people of Meitrabak, and no-one knows what became of her. However, the Eeka-leaves are tinged with red streaks even to this day, and Meitei mothers still tell their children not to cry lest Lai Khutsangbi comes to take crying children away.

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