Kaahor Bati (Bell Metal Bowl)- A Short Story

Source: https://commons.m.wikimedia.org

“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.

Source: IndiaMART.com, that’s a bell metal bowl

Cultural notes:

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.


Hill Cut

The sunrays glimmered on the sloping pineapple fields. Men and women abstained from listing out their dreams, and went on doing what their ancestors did and what their children would do- reaping what they had sown and selling it in some dainty markets in Shillong.

The hard workers toil the earth as if it were their own. Neither did they stop to rest nor will they glimpse at the ferocious dark clouds looming on. From somewhere blew a smooth, tangy air enticing their freckled, pinkish skin. But will they rest? Sigh, life goes on just like the wind does.

Behind the tree stood a tallish hill, what Mathew called ‘the Meghalayan Everest’. If people of Noylingom ever had their piece of rest, it was all devoted to nurturing this hill. Children and old had memories firmly bonded with Everest, perhaps, watching a rainbow, amassing firewoods or recounting the building of the highway winding around the hill.

In the laps of Grandpa, Conrad hears his goodnight stories, not of fairytales and fantasies (that’s for children) but about the building of the highway, about better connectivity and communications. Conrad only gapes at grandpa’s worldly wisdom and his old man’s weak voice quivering big things. One thing for sure is that Conrad didn’t understand Grandpa. Not at all.

But Conrad soon understood what Grandpa meant when he witnessed it one morning. Dozens of bulldozers lined at the foothills of Everest. Days went by and the hill was denuded and stripped, bored and dug until it was no more a hill.

Tugging at the hems of one of the worker’s uniform, Conrad asked, “What are you doing here?” The worker suddenly becoming aware, looked around. Amused by Conrad’s innocence, he crouched down and said, “That’s called development, child.” He smiled looking at the construction site, “Of you, your place. The country’s. Every-”

“No sir,” Conrad interjected, “We don’t need it, thank you.”

Saras-what Puja? The Local Prom

Prom Nights are one of the most sought after occasions among the high school students of USA. There are no bones about it that one would never miss such an opportunity to look in their best avtar. And boos to teen films that add to the ever expanding hysteria circling around prom nights. This has created a sudden kind of urge for teenage students not studying in ‘prom-celebrating’ schools to join in in such a hard to miss and once in a lifetime experience.

But let’s dive into the South Asian nation of India-somewhere close to my heart, in the state of Assam. Even Prom nights will be acting wimpish as to what we celebrate here- the much desired Saraswati Puja. Just as the New Year approaches, each student’s head gets stacked with the nagging problem of wearing a unique attire, yet merging with everybody’s. And consider how less talked about is the big, fat fact of the silent and creeping competition among the ‘fashionistas’ to be unique…and well, just like everybody else. No one spares anything to appear as someone faaaaaaar away from what they actually look like.

Source: http://www.flickr.com

Most girls take their time off to rummage through their wardrobes or around shopping marts. Boys become oblivious to school norms, refusing to cut their hair for the look of D Day. No one looks the same, not at all of what they appear donning up their regular uniforms. Girls and boys cladded in traditional attires and packed in a ginormous crowd of rainbow colors can give a first time observant of this festival a really hard time.

Hidden truth is that Saraswati Puja still remains the unofficial Valentines Day of Assam. This is the day of the hush-hush lovers, who elopes whenever a never-expected-nor-invited teacher patrols the ‘hideout’ (This auspicious occasion is mainly celebrated in educational institutes). Singles too have their merriment if they happen to have a big appetite, the food carts bordering the streets always provide them their coveted sanctuaries. Friends catch up on friends, tiny tots have serendipitously, marvellous recollections in their kitties. It’s a great day for, literally, anybody.

Source: http://www.flickr.com

But, quite sadly, the biggest drawback of today’s Saraswati Puja can be well witnessed by the Generation X. The very reason that has made us celebrate this festival is not the primary and the sole reason as to why students look forward to this day.

The festival is when many students usually pray for a happy school life and better marks, well, mostly whirling around better results. Since education has a great role to make the world a better place, this ritual can never be disposed off, for Goddess Saraswati is the embodiment of profound knowledge and art. But today’s scenario out there is pitiful, and perhaps, hardly any student attends this puja to seek Her divine blessings.

Source: booyah! I clicked

Yet undoubtedly, this is a festival that runs in our blood, which is never painted with any religious colours. Just as what Devi Saraswati epitomises, this is one peaceful occasion that has blended with our culture. And one always hopes that the fervour and gutso that grip many of us never ever cease to exist.