A life full of achievements

A life full of achievements

Belgin Akaltan, belgin.akaltan@hdn.com.tr
A life full of achievements

Birand was the happiest person in the world when with grandson Umberto Ali Birand.

Mehmet Ali Birand died Thursday evening. And since then his family, friends, colleagues and those who knew him are trying to cope with this awful situation of losing a loved one.

I was glued to the TV that evening, to his channel Kanal D, which was airing a special memorial program that lasted almost all night. Even Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called in to share his memories and feelings. When I said I was glued, I mean it. This is my way of coping. In all such major events that affect me deeply, even though I am practically at the center where news is processed, where everything is formulated right in front of my eyes, once I get home, I become an ordinary person, as if I am a stranger to the people who are on the screen, I start watching the TV.

Endlessly. I don’t get any sleep, I don’t give a break. I move into a state of trance until I collapse.

Instead of going home, I could just as well stay in the office and work because it is impossible for me to relax on those days and nights.

I thought of his wife, Cemre Birand, on Thursday night. It was her first night without him for maybe four decades. I don’t know about you but I notice a happy couple even from a distance. It was so obvious they were in love, that they had a happy life, and that they have raised a son they were proud of.

Then we saw in the coverage on Kanal D and all other channels Friday morning and onwards that Mehmet Ali Birand was the happiest person in the world with the arrival of his grandson. The toddler, Umberto Ali Birand (must have an Italian mother), is the cutest baby ever and, yes, Umberto Ali would make any grandparent the happiest in the world.

At one part of his memorial coverage, Birand was joking that he used to make fun of old people and grandparents who lost themselves in their grandchildren. After saying that, he confessed that he had become exactly like those people he teased. He said he made such a fool of himself while playing with his grandson that at times he was ashamed of the movements he was making to please the baby. I remembered my late father while listening to Birand’s grandparenthood. My father was also ridiculously over the moon when our son Aydın was born.

Mehmet Ali Birand was the doyen of Turkish television journalism; his programs, his channel and his office were the best journalism schools around. Numerous other prominent journalists are grateful to Birand for his teachings and support.

This is a quality not found very easily in Turkish journalism. We do not support each other; we want to strangle each other if we can. The formula of Birand’s success must be this welcoming and accommodating attitude for his associates and colleagues. Also his sincerity. On the screen, he was himself, not acting. His smile, his blunders, his mispronunciations all looked so cute; they were so genuinely presented that millions loved him.

I did not know Mehmet Ali Birand closely, but we had a working relationship on daily basis. Many times, I felt I was in his brain while processing his daily columns, especially the English versions. His last column was about the funerals in Diyarbakýr and he had written: “Both the police and the PKK must pass a test.” He would have been very happy if he could have learned that they both did pass the test. He was one of those silent actors of the peace process.

In his last column, he also had a section about the Halki Seminary and why it was not being reopened, saying that the Turkish government should abandon the “reciprocality” principle. He wrote: “We somehow cannot abandon the ‘reciprocity’ principle. When we do something, we expect Greece to reciprocate in the same way. However, the seminary is a part of this country. The clergy educated there are our citizens. To expect reciprocity is an exceptionally wrong approach.”

Yes, I still feel I am in his brain, processing sentences together with him.
May he rest in peace…