Updated: Feb 11
A recent visit to the northeast indian state of meghalaya has been an introduction to kwai: a combination of betel leaf with lime (from limestone) and areca nut, shared in a gesture of hospitality.
Apart from gifting it, the sensation it creates is a mild oral numbing and that of a mild stimulant similar to chewing tobacco. But the most interesting thing about kwai -- which has been consumed by khasi tribes in the region for centuries -- is that it is not just consumed but is also used as a way to measure time and distances.
So since most people carry them in pouches, distance was often measured in terms of how many kwai were consumed!
(kwai is also the name of an interesting app in china which signfies the rural urban cultural dichtomy as a way of ordering cyberspace.)