A darkened room… Unclear words turn into a whisper first, and then, silence reigns in the room.
And then, a commercial, made as if it were a movie, takes over. An African boy speaks in his own language. We understand what he is saying from the subtitles. He says, “I was not as lucky as the kids in my country.” He says, “I had a rough childhood.” He says, “I was involved in criminal activities.”
The rhythm escalates; sirens, police, escapes, fleeing in confusion; these all make you excited. However, at the height of excitement, music stops all of a sudden. The black boy starts talking in Turkish. The course of the story is changed. The young boy talks about his story of how he was admitted to a Turkish college in central Africa. He explains how he came to know the Turkish language and adds as his eyes get brighter: “Bu da gelir bu da geçer ağlama” (Don't you cry as this will be over some day).
I looked around when the commercial was over. The audience was stunned. We all think about the great transformation that a young boy in a remote part of the world has experienced in his life. And then, the young boy we have just seen in the commercial stepped on the stage. In an impressive tone, he says, “Hi, I am Nicholas.”
When I heard that sentence, I recalled a scene that we had months ago. Tibet Sanlıman, owner of the Vietnam Advertising Agency, and his close friend Gürkan Günaydın told us about an advertising project. Tibet excitingly explained his project despite the curious looks of a small delegation. He said: “Last year, I was impressed by a young boy that I met last year when I was shooting a commercial for the Turkish Olympiads. This year, I would like to present part of his life in the commercial. I am sure that the audience will be impressed at least as much as I was.”
The delegation liked the idea because the brightness in the eyes of Tibet adequately proved that a true life story would appeal to the hearts of the people. While I was busy recalling the details of that story we experienced months ago, Nicholas narrates his story on the stage. It turns out this young boy who went through a painful childhood first graduated from a Turkish school and then started to teach at the same school.
Just as we were thinking we were hearing the happy end of the story, Beyaz (Beyazıt Öztürk) takes the stage. Now white and black are side by side; they are sincere and lovely. I understand the importance of the host in such perfect programs and events. Beyaz talks sincerely from his heart to Nicholas. The energy on the stage gradually spreads all over the room. Sincere hugs and jokes…
Please do not say, “Is it reasonable to make room for so many names in a column?” If I had more space, I would like to mention all of the guests because each one of them is invaluable. And the most important thing is that many people from diverse backgrounds and worldviews were there. Love for Turkey and the Turkish language was the main motive that has brought the people together in the hall.
Kids from all around the world took the stage, sharing with us many new things. We were all touched by the performance by a Pakistani young boy who sang a song of Ahmet Kaya. We felt deep in our hearts how people were made to suffer under extraordinary conditions. You had to close your eyes if you had to avoid seeing how Ethem Sancak, Zafer Mutlu and other guests were moved. An Azeri boy recited poem by Nazım Hikmet. Georgian and African kids performed Black Sea folk dances. A Turkmen boy was arguing with Beyaz on the stage. Beyaz asked him, “Do you know me?” In response, he said, “I might have seen you somewhere.” The kids were so competent in Turkish language that they criticized the foreign words we use in daily language, asking for more prudence and sensitivity.
I looked for those who made us experience this great event. They were not there. Obviously, they did not want to be applauded or appreciated. I thought I should find the teachers who spent efforts to train these wonderful kids. And they were not there either. Apparently, they wanted to remain behind the curtains. Who knows, maybe they were sitting in the back of the hall as if they were guests, taking a look at what they have accomplished by raising the image of the Turkish language around the world.
The members of the Türkçe-Der (Association for Turkish Language), who expended tireless efforts to hold the Turkish Olympiads were also absent. In a second, I saw Ahmet Gül backstage, running around to take care of something. I thought, “This guy must have been always like this.” A friend of mine forced the Association of Doctors Chair Ali Ursavaş to take a seat in the front row. But he got bored and embarrassed; obviously, he wanted to run away. His wish was to watch the kids from the back seats. This was the spirit; this was the emotion. Nobody was looking for fame or reputation in this event.
In fact, there was one thing that all were set to accomplish: finding other Nicholas's, appealing to them through the love of language; teaching a language to everybody and speaking to their hearts with love. In the meantime, we learned a lot from these kids and their cultures. They were reflecting the beauties of their cultures in Turkey. And we understood that the motto, “Hand in hand for humanity" fits well in the Turkish Olympiads which celebrates its 10th anniversary.
Published on Sunday's Zaman, 03 June 2012, Sunday