Whenever the month of February comes around, the whole of Bangladesh observes the month in honour of the martyrs of the language movement that took place on February 21, 1952.
It was due to that movement that Bengali was recognised as a state language of Pakistan, Bangladesh being the Eastern part of the country at the time. The day gained worldwide recognition after being recognised as International Mother Language Day by UNESCO in 1999.
However, it came as a surprise when a female police officer, who was on duty at the Hagley Oval in Christchurch on Saturday, greeted this reporter by saying: "Kemon Acho? Ami Bangladesh ke bhalobashi (How are you? I love Bangladesh)."
Nadine Vickers, the policewoman, later revealed that she married a Bangladeshi and learned Bengali and interestingly she was more comfortable interacting with this reporter in Bengali than in English.
Nadine travelled to Bangladesh in 2013 to work for a healthcare project in Modhupur, Tangail where she met Roton Bormon, whom she later married.
"I went to Bangladesh back in 2013 with three other Kiwis for a holiday. At the same time I was also involved in Kailakuri Healthcare project in Modhupur. There was a Kiwi doctor who opened a hospital there in 1980 for the poor. I used to assist the doctor, especially to raise funds as our main donors were from New Zealand and the United States. My husband Roton used to work there as an interpreter. He is the one who taught me Bengali," Nadine told The Daily Star in Bengali.
Nadine and Raton got married in 2017, four years after meeting, and the same year moved back to New Zealand, where Nadine joined the police force while her husband also got a job in Christchurch.
"It was tough initially to learn Bengali but doctor bhai helped me and I also learned from the locals. I was unable to speak initially but when I started to learn seriously it took me six to eight months to properly speak in Bengali. I had no idea about the language, politics or other things of Bangladesh before going there," she said.
However, much like all great love stories, there was a twist in Nadine's too. The two families were initially opposed to the marriage but they were later convinced.
"In Christmas of 2013 my family and a few friends came to Bangladesh and met Ratan along and eventually they agreed. There was some issues initially but after meeting him, they accepted our relationship. He is very gentle and friendly and I like spending time with him. He also like to travel so we used to travel a lot inside Bangladesh," Nadine said.
The local Bengali community will mark the 21st February in Wellington and Nadine informed that she was hoping to attend the programme and added that even if she couldn't make it she had plans to visit Bangladesh later this year.