“Ma, I don’t get it!” exclaimed Samli, raising her hands in frustruation. “Why do you need to get up from your seat and serve deuta the scoop of rice when the pressure cooker is literally in front of him?”
“Thet, Maajoni,” her mother replied, dismissively. “Passing the food is table manner,” she countered, as she silently put the ladle inside the cooker, while her husband, unbothered about the conversation about him even taking place, smacked onto the daali.
Samli narrowed her eyes in exasperation, frustrated having had her mother shrugging her off again.
Dismissing her as if she had in all these years unable to grasp the minute undertone of this scenario in the dining room happening everyday.
Her mother pushing away from the table, getting up from the seat, serving the food onto her father’s plate, briskly commuting from the kitchen to the fridge. Hearing her husband’s requests for a papad now, a chilli then, perhaps a slice of lime or a cube of onion to crunch on with the dinner.
And, she unrelentingly complying to all of the trivial wishes.
“Samli maajoni,” her mother called, snapping Samli out of her bubble of thoughts. “Please, go fetch the curd from the kitchen, maa,” she said dotingly, as she finally took the seat to carry on finishing her own plate of dinner. “Maybe, Deuta would like having some curd rice now.”
Samli stared at her mother silently, blinking. Her eyes squinted and eyebrows raised in a questioning look. “He hasn’t even asked for it,” she was about to utter in irritance, but then tiredly disregarded it, silently proceeded towards the kitchen, merely fumbling alone to herself.
Flickering on the lights, she kept her hands on the slab in frustruation, unable to understand why does her muther shrug her off? Pondering upon it, she kept looking in silence at the untensils rack, where all the cutlerys and dishes have been lined up in their respective compartments. The bell metal vessels on one side and the normal, daily-used stainless steel on the other.
Breaking the silent atmosphere settling with her infuriation, she mindfully fetching two steel bowls and one bell metal bowl from the rack spooned out the curd from the clay pitcher. As gently as she could, she placed the bowls on the tray and took an attentive glance at the arrangement of the bowls itself for a few moments before eventually proceeding to carry it carefully to the dining room.
With an intent eye kept on the bowls, Samli set the steel ones near her plate and her father’s, right after placing the sole bell metal bowl near her mother’s side.
And then maintaining a still composure while taking her seat, she sipped on to the glass of water waitimg calmly, examining the bowl near her mother’s plate, contemplating her prediction to unfold in reality in a few minutes.
And, then it happened so, just as she had rightfully guessed.
Her mother swiftly placing the spoon in her bell metal bowl, Samli saw what she has been expecting all along. With deft hands, switching the bell metal bowl with her husband’s steel one, in front, a wife finally took to having her dinner once again.
The grandeur of bell Metal plate in the Assamese Culture isn’t always reflected by it’s lustre, the mark of the history of reigning Ahom kings nor the cost of this handicraft piece. Sometimes it can be a blatant reflection of patriarchy itself.
‘Daali’ is dal (pulses), ‘Maajoni/Maa’ means daughter, ‘Ma’ is mother, ‘Deuta’ is father and ‘Thet’ means ‘whatever’, in a scornful manner.