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Monday, August 31, 2009

The Taste of a Word, the Colour of a Sound

"Cultural Mosaics" by Timi, writing from Budapest, Hungary


Edited by Ali Yildirim

Rainy night. A frightening thunderstorm is lumbering heavily above the city, lighting forks are striking through the dark clouds that hang over the sky like a heavy bedspread, unwashed for decades and now letting its dirty laundry out, pouring its sins onto the roofs, walls, streets, lampposts, knocking on my window impatiently, to invade my thoughts and drive my dreams away.

I'm scared of thunderstorms. They remind me how fragile life is and how fragile dreams are. I'm uncomfortable in my bed, tossing and turning. Tomorrow is a hard day, with customers waiting for their documentation; Dutch colleagues too busy to answer questions that stupid customers ask three times in a row and I have to be the bumper between them, taking all their hate, embarrassment, frustration and confusion. Sometimes I wish I could wrap up the data-sheet into a ball and thrust it down the valued customer's throat. Too bad we are only a virtual team for them with no direct contact. And then, this storm doesn't let me sleep and forget. Forget work, men, the issues of moving flats and forget the world.

I feel helpless. With a deep sigh, I switch on the bedside lamp and get up to turn on the laptop. I need something to drown out the rumbling of the unwanted storm at my window. Lately I have dived deep into a new album, 21 by Redd. I'm fond of munching on their lyrics, tasting every word, so foreign and so familiar at he same time. I'm trying to think about how they would sound in Hungarian. It amazes me how difficult it is to grab the exact meaning of the words. I know what they mean. I know what they want to say. I see the story in front of my eyes. But when I'm transforming them into my native tongue, they lose something... they lose their earth. They cease to be forged from the Turkish fires that stoked them, and sound harsh and unwanted. Is it at all possible for me to translate Turkish properly, I wonder?

I turn on the media player and slowly start sinking into the turquoise blue sea of the song.

Hani kalbim vardı, ölmeden de durmazdı
Hani gözlerim gördükçe hayallerim olacaktı.
İnandım, yaşadım, yaşandım daha çok

Is it possible to realise new meanings of these words every single time I listen to them? Somehow they endlessly transform, twisting and turning, scattering newer colours, flowing down the walls, crawling from under my bed, dripping from the tap I always forget to have fixed.

yaşandım daha çok*

I have been lived... My life is living me. My thoughts, my feelings, every step, every decision I make, every portion of food I eat, every drop of water I drink lives me. They have me lived. They have me. They have. They.

Is it not wonderful, how you can play with a language? How the human mind is able to decode a message hidden in three simple words with simple meanings. Live. A lot. Been. And yet, it means so much more than that. Its real meaning is inexpressible. It can only be felt. This twofold nature of language, of being expressible and inexpressible at the same time, always amazes me. That's why I love languages. A mystery, a secret, a puzzle, seemingly so easy and yet so difficult to solve. A game and at the same time a wonder.

And those wonderful differences and similarities between languages! The miniature mirrors of a people's way of thinking, way of life, history, customs and nature all compressed into a can of words and grammar. Like, olacaktı. Be-will-would have; would have been. Expressing the impossibility of doing something in the future, with using the future tense in the past. Isn't it just amazing? Hayallerim olacaktı. I was (meant) to have dreams....

My mind starts wandering about the paths of Turkish grammar and the amusing nature of languages, while my soul is filled with the sound, the voice of the singer. When I close my eyes, I can see the movie of the words he sings. Every word is a separate film, with its colours, plot, directors and sets, a Hollywood hidden in a single word, its soundtrack being the pronunciation. Each word, depending on the way it is sung, becomes a different genre, drama, action, romance... And as if sitting in a cinema, I'm struck speechless and open my eyes wide open to see the screen of the word as well as possible. They crawl slowly deep into my veins and the sound reaches the bottom of my soul, to plant a flower on top of it ("Ben kalbimin üstüne bir çiçek dikerim..." as Redd says in the song), with the power of music.

I smile as I climb back into my bed, embracing my beloved pillow tight. Now I can dream. With all these tasteful words and colourful sounds in my head, I can dream on.

* Editors note: What the lyrics suggest here is that the protagonist of the song has had his life lived vicariously - rather than having lived for himself, he has lived on the sidelines of life never taking action, or that others have used his life to live off him. It gives the image of a character who hasn't been central in his own life; he has been lived more than he has lived.

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