Remona Aly
Monday 25 April 2016 Pause for Thought, BBC Radio 2

Celebs, Samosas & the Science of Laughter

Celebs, Samosas & the Science of Laughter: Pause for Thought, Radio 2 Chris Evans Breakfast Show


My life could be described as a series of embarrassing moments. I’ve been dubbed by friends as the Muslim Miranda because mishaps, faux pas, and awkward situations seem to be my thing.

There was the time when, during my first year at university, a friend and I popped down to the local 7/11 and saw a very famous person in the cereal aisle. “Oh it’s, um, it’s…” We just couldn’t place him. We decided to walk over and ask him directly: “Excuse me, we know you’re famous, have we seen you on TV?” ‘Well, you might have done” Brian May responded cool as a cucumber, while I died inside. And I was a Queen fan!

Another time, years later, a potential suitor and his family came round to my house. I was really nervous and we were all on our best behaviour. Things seemed to be going well. Our two families were getting along nicely, and we were pondering a marital alliance over tea and samosas, when a random granny wandered in from the care home next door. We turned in slow motion, samosa mid bite, as the aged figure hovered at the head of the table in her dressing gown and slippers – like a spectre from Macbeth with a blue rinse.

Moments later, my potential suitor and his family made a quick exit stage left, and were never to be heard from again. They clearly didn’t have a sense of humour.

It was an awkward moment, but such moments teach me not to take life so seriously all the time. Being religious doesn’t mean you’re straight-laced and don’t know how to laugh at yourself.

In fact laughter was studied by Muslim physicians over a thousand years ago. The famous Muslim polymath al-Kindi, who lived in 9th century Baghdad, defined laughter as “an even-tempered purity of the blood of the heart, together with an expansion of the soul to a point where its joy becomes visible”.

Of course, life isn’t a joke. I’ve known heartbreak, and I’ve known grief to the point where I can’t remember how to breathe.

But these sunny moments, even the embarrassing ones, break through the dark clouds to bring light relief. They remind me that there is a time to weep and a time to laugh – even if it is at my own expense.