The beautiful state of Meghalaya is a mother to twelve districts and offers a spectacular natural treat to the eye of the beholder. While some districts are better than others in more ways than one, there are those that are economically weak, which in turn impedes the personal, social, political and educational growth of an individual.
One such district is West Khasi Hills District. The hitherto undivided West Khasi Hills District embraced a number of Khasi sub-tribes like the Maram, the Lyngngam, the Mawcjang, the Muliang, the Rimen, the Nongstoiñ, the Khatsawphra etc. They each have their own distinctive traditional practices and relatively different dialects, though all belong to the Austro-Asiatic language family.
The infamous Marams, as a sub-tribe, are the people of the Maharam Syiemship who have existed long before the dawn of British colonisation in our north eastern region. Identically, Maram is used and understood to be both a sub-tribe and a dialect, common to Mawkyrwat and its adjoining areas. Historically, before the lid was put into the trade with the Bangladesh Bengalis, the Marams were well off and known for their resilience and diligence.
After the border markets were shut, the Marams began to migrate to other parts including Shillong, Bhoi area and every nook and corner of West Khasi Hills in search of better livelihood; thus, taking with them their lifestyle and natal tongue.
So impactful is the spread in West Khasi Hills that Maram became unofficially the official mode of communication at various marketplaces and social gatherings, thereby inculcating the dialect to others. Just because we speak their tongue, it doesn’t make us Marams; in the same way it doesn’t make one a British just because one speaks English. But as far as derogatory remarks are concerned, Maram is understood to be one thing alone- the people of West Khasi Hills. Since we are all being implicated, I will henceforth club all of us as Maram.
It is disheartening, even at this time and age of globalisation, to see that the word ‘Maram’ is being used to describe someone who is backward, poor, illiterate; someone who wears unmatched clothes, someone who is unfashionable. Often it is heard in many heated arguments where one party describes the other as ‘Maram’ to attribute the quality of being barbaric, regardless of the latter’s origin.
Marams living in the city, we have been called by many names by our city perfectionists like ‘Maram Sahbiej’, ‘Maram Makyllaiñ’, ‘Riam Maram’ etc. Initially these words have no impact on us because they bear certain truths for, we do receive poor education back home, most of us puff the ‘Makyllain’ and we certainly have no sense of fashion.
But with time we see these phrases are being used condescendingly, with a tinge of bigotry and for expression of disgust only to realise that they are but racial slurs. Besides the incongruence of the term ‘Maram’, the implication of such remarks is preposterous and only instills a sense of inferiority and insecurity especially to the young minds.
It is in this context that the recent outburst from various corners at our end stormed the social media in a series of criticism over the rasping and illogical comment of a lady on the Marams. On seeing it, I couldn’t help but think of the achievements and contributions that the Marams have made in all walks of life. Yet in the spirit of unity and with pride they attribute their achievements as Khasis and not Marams. It is high time that we learn to accept and respect the diversity there is within our roof.
We are just a handful in this vast ocean of people and before we submerge our identity in the name of modernisation, the call for unity is the anchor for the Khasi community. The Khynriam, Pnar, Bhoi, War, Maram, Lyngngam- we are all Khasis. I am a proud Maram but firstly I am a Khasi.