Creative Comedy Project

Mother Tongue-tied By Runa Rahman


A voice booms loudly and clearly in my ear and replies "Hello. Can you hear me? It's your aunty calling from Bangladesh."

My heart falls slightly and I wonder if there's a way out of having this conversation. I can never be as crazy as my younger sister who pulls the phone line out when it gets too much and pretends that the connection was bad so I breathe deeply and swallow my nervousness.

"Oh. Hello Aunty, how are you?" I say in my best Bangla.

At this point mum is frantically waving to catch my attention and mouths the words "ask after uncle and your cousins too and remember to be polite."

I don't know why she adds this last part as if I will be rude to my aunty but nevertheless I say "And how are uncle, Rima and Kamal?"

"Yes, yes all good. Now who am I talking to?"

"It's me aunty, Aisha. The third eldest. Would you like to speak to Mum?" I say

"No dear, not just yet and what work are you doing now?" Aunty asks.

"I work in an office." I say.

I know that's vague but it's vague on purpose, I can't find the words in Bangla to describe the intricacies of my job or even to translate my job title to Bangla. I hope she won't ask me more about it. She doesn't and we move on to the next discussion point in our stilted conversation.

"Good, good and when will you come to visit us in Bangladesh? It has been exactly 15 years since you last came over."

"I know. Soon Aunty, soon I hope. Would you like to speak to Mum now? She's gone to the next room but I can get her for you." I say.

She either ignores or doesn't hear the last part and carries on by saying "And when are you getting married?"

"Sorry? I don't understand. Did someone tell you I was getting married? I'm not Aunty." I say.

"Ok, very good. I know girls are leaving it late in London but you're not a spring chicken and all the good boys are nearly all gone, especially at your age. You'll not have much choice. Maybe think about marrying a boy from Bangladesh. They're very good and educated and handsome. You'll have a good life. I know some people if you want me to talk for you and I'm sure your parents will be perfectly happy with anyone I recommend to you. What do you say?" Aunty says.

I say nothing in reply.

I am incensed and the retort I can spew in perfect English won't form in Bangla. I begin to rue the fact that I conversed mainly in English with my Bangla speaking parents and other Bengali people I know otherwise I would've known exactly what to say in reply; in that moment I am at a loss for words and feeling very tongue tied. I take a second to splutter audibly then run to the room and pull the phone line.

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