Polyglot Lovin’

Despite a marked preference for all films superhero, I haven’t seen The Amazing Spiderman yet. This is because I was supposed to see it with a young gent, whose company I find I no longer particularly desire.

At this point, I imagine my old friends are clutching at their bosoms dramatically, gleefully yipping, “Rimi changed her mind about going out? Surely notte!!! How utterly incredible! Really?”.

Bloody clowns. Never have old friends, is my advice to you.

Anyway, so there’s this young g., perfectly lovely, proportions quite pleasing, speaks softly with a lightly spiced London accent… so why is my affection waning? It’s waning, because English with a hint of cinnamon isΒ all Β he speaks.

Now, had he been English born and bred — or a foreigner of any description other than Bangladeshi — this monolingual connection would have been fine by me. If, under those circs, he managed to so much as shriek “Haraaami!” after an auto-driver, I would have stood up and applauded loudly, and told everyone what a genius he was. But though legally English-born (but London bred — he tells me there’s significant difference, depending on which part of London did the breeding), ethnically, our hero is Bengali. He tries to play the cool ‘local boy’ with me — just another urban middle-class man with a nine-to-five grind, drifting through the crowded streets in search of Love, Meaning, and other garden-variety romcom conceits — but fails the very first test of such an identity: comfortable multilingualism, in at least three languages.

His English is fine, of course. Though he does look at me strangely when I say so-and-so’s eating my head. Hindi, well. Apart from instructions to taxi drivers, our man doesn’t speak Hindi at all. Explaining the nudge-nudge wit of Bollywood lyrics to him is a nightmare. But given his geocultural upbringing, I’d have overlooked this. I do not, after all, speak Swahili. And anyway, Hindi’s not my special darling. I much prefer the old, slightly Persian-flavoured ‘Hindustani’. But what I find nearly impossible to reconcile with is his stilted Bangla. Despite a lifetime with Bengali parents, and a decade in this city. A man who misses cues in his mother tongue — from winky little asides to the poignance of the daily mundane —Β  is not, I’ve discovered, a man who is very attractive to me.

So… yes. I’ve lost interest in a perfectly all right man because he speaks just one languge well. This problem would disappear if he only conceded that linguistically, he’s really an Anglophone Westerner. My brain would arrange itself into a more comfortable pattern around him then. But out of a misguided notion of finding common ground with me, he insists on telling me he’s just as Bengali as I am.

Poor boy. He doesn’t understand that to be as Bengali as me, he first has to be fluent in butchered Hindi.



  1. If none of this works out, then on what basis, pray, were you then contemplating going out with him? And on what counts has he suddenly failed you that you must be this bitter?

    • (A) Great company, as long as I pretended I was speaking to a foreigner, and didn’t lapse into Bangla witticisms which I then had to explain at painful length, killing the joke in the process.

      Deduce (B) from (A).

  2. I just love your wit and style of writing! I’ve been meaning to tell you that ever since I started following your blog and today’s post has given me the perfect moment to share that with you πŸ™‚

  3. I’m with you Rimi, speaking halting Bengali after spending a lifetime in London can happen to the best people, but after a decade in India? .and yeah, if you can’t share a joke or a cultural reference in your language, you might as well be dating an Argentinian. I hear they’re great dancers.

  4. About witticisms: Konkanis on the other hand are a very considerate lot. They will explain even the simplest joke (or even a pun) in painful detail so that even the most dimwitted person will not feel left out. And at the end of it everyone will laugh merrily, and the one who will laugh the most will be the one who has cracked the joke. If there is someone who has still not got it, he will be patiently explained to, and when he finally does laugh aftera gap of say, five minutes, everyone will laugh again in shared camaraderie. Isn’t that nice? The less challenging the humor, the better of course, as it serves the lowest common denominator which is a testimony to our egalitarianism. Also, intellect is best employed in matters of practical importance and not silly inscrutable obscure humor.

    • Indeed he is, and very well too.

      Gautam, the trouble with a well-oiled intellect, sadly, is that the humour comes to it as light unto day: spontaneously and inevitably. Unlike comedians, it doesn’t have to tear its hair out or chew its pencils to a stump. It’s magic!

  5. Ak ak ta community poder, mairi. When I was in the north east Ruma I found that all I had to was announce, “I’m going to make a sex joke” and that was enough to double everybody up in the room and break out the local liquor.

  6. Rimi, I fully agree with the need to understand Bengali and aberrated Hindi…remember having to explain Umrao effing Jaan in and Pankaj bleeding Udhaas in the early throes of wedded whatever..nothing is a bigger romance killer than premature and tentative (cachinn)ation…

  7. This Punjabi NYC cab driver amake prochondo lecture dilo ak maash aage–tar bou American of Indian descent kintu Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi kissu jane na, tai khoob dukkho kore bollo, apne bhaasha samjhe, aise hi log dhoondhna, thik hain? On the other hand, my Ukrainian roomie and I frequently amuse ourselves by having entire conversations with each other in our respective mothertongues πŸ˜€

    • And women horrified. No thank you. *scarpers* But, while mildly sexist wedding jokes are always welcome, I think you’ve missed the mark with this one. I don’t want the boy to shut up. I want him to understand cultural references I’m making. Not in the same ball park, is it?

  8. Ei je ledki kothakar, tum samajhta hai je “not unattractive” aur “attractive” ek tho jinish nahin hai? Boli proof-reading kaun karega, tumka oi Phorashi shoshur? Aaj kal ka ledki log ka bolihari!

  9. I’d take the most issue with the hypocrisy of claiming to belong to one culture when he’s not even fluent in it! Someone can be a great person but still not right romantically, that’s not snobby. πŸ™‚
    Hope you still get to see The Amazing Spiderman soon!

  10. Amusing yet worth thinking about. If you had it your way, Rimidi, you’d have had us all convinced of the virginity of our mothers. I hope the young man in question does not get wind of this note, otherwise it’s death-by-cycle-rickshaw for him.

  11. Haven’t laughed so much in ages darling. The post and the string of comments made my evening. πŸ™‚ Come to Dilli. The English bred dilliwallahs are equally amusing. Must share notes.


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