#bAKLAVAMAG MEETS: OBEN BUDAK

The wait is over! After weeks of silence, #BaklavaMag is back with a captivating interview with one of the most quick-witted Turkish lifestyle journalists, an author and the editor-in-chief of the Athens-based collaborative initiative #ADAMINTOWN. Although Oben Budak is now running ahead of an intense schedule to complete his upcoming novel, he generously took some time to open up about the new chapter of his life in Greece and much more. Read on to get your daily dose of inspiration, fellas!

Getting used to new normal is quite challenging for the majority. How have you been dealing with that period?

OB: I have survived by giving a new direction to my relationship with nature. I live in one of the Athens’ classic houses with large balconies. I had sown lots of seeds and learnt what to do to make my plants grow better. I could feel scared if I wouldn’t do like that. In short, I have survived with nature.

How would you define your current state of mind towards life in a broader sense? 

OB: It is not clear how much time we will spend in this world. Enjoying the days we have is as important as trying to understand the world. I try to understand the concept of life based on my experiences instead of books. We, humans, are the ones who make the world more beautiful -together with the animals and plants. We need to get that nobody has any advantage over anyone. For instance, I do not like pretending as if we are the masters of animals. That is not true. 

It has been almost two years since you have settled in Greece. How did you come up with such decision? 

OB: I am crazy about sea and summer. I would like to live in flip-flops and shorts in the rest of my life. When a few of my friends moved to Athens, we have started visiting Greece often. Athens is very similar to Istanbul of the years of my youth and I miss those days a lot, that’s why I never felt out of Athens.

How does living in Athens differ from living in Istanbul? What kind of a transformation you have been going through? 

OB: The way of life between Athens and Istanbul is not much different. The similarity of their culture brings those both closer. Istanbul, as a metropolitan, is just a bit more fast-paced comparing to Athens. Since I was extremely tired of living in the fast lane, the pace of Athens seemed very good to me. I have given up rushing through life. Every single day is a blessing here.

You used to perform a wide range of occupations for years. As you have probably heard, being multitasking is scientifically believed to be a way of running away from yourself. Does that work for you as well?

OB: I’m a lion. As you might know, lions love to sleep and rest. If I had my rathers, I could spend my life by doing only those two, but there was a type of life that I dreamed of and I had to work hard to make that happen. I think that was the reason for me take advantage of the opportunities that I had encountered. In fact, those were my fields of interest as well. DJing and writing had never made me feel tired. I feel like I can be myself while I am working, I wouldn’t define that as running away from myself.

You were at the age of nineteen when you first met Sertab Erener, one thing is for sure that collaborating with her must be a remarkable experience for any human being. Which part of you might have influenced her and the rest of those powerful women you had worked with? How did you stand out amongst all others?

OB: I am in the mood for adding excitement around. You know, nothing happens without excitement. I was in the studio 24/7 while Sertab Erener’s album titled “Sertab Gibi” was being recorded. Even if I had no duty, I was going to see the atmosphere that was new to me. Then, the same happened when I started the press sector. My excitement led me here. Every step towards innovation is valuable.

As an individual who has spent a considerable amount of time in media and entertainment industry, how would you evaluate the contribution of media in terms of hatred and violence toward sexual, ethnic and racial identities?

OB: We know that the media organs publishes whatever the government desires. I haven’t seen a media system that puts people first. In that sense, I was daunted in Turkey. I became unable to write what I wanted. You write an article about LGBTI+ rights and the next day, you receive tons of threatening messages in your mailbox. Such things are not easy to deal with. Eventually, even in recent #BlackLivesMatter protests, things haven’t changed. The press, which seemed as they were a side of the protesters at first made them look invasive later on. Unfortunately, the press has no credibility today. We, now, have Twitter and online magazines. When was the last time you bought a newspaper?

You demonstrate a clear stance on fairness issues particularly in terms of human and animal rights, how would you criticize the policies and public approaches of Turkey and Greece?

OB: Justice should be for everyone. I don’t have to walk around my corner and keep my mouth quiet because I’m in my comfort zone. My life does not matter when I see a child begging on the street or when I see a hungry cat. It doesn’t matter if we are not able to get happy all together. Animal rights is not to be considered in Turkey. I listen to the stories of street animals slaughtered in Athens before the Olympics, being upset about such issues makes me even more angry. Wherever you go in the world, there are similar problems -but this won’t go like that. The system has started to change. A hundred years later, people will talk about how ridiculous we are as the people feeding ourselves with meat.

The protagonist of a novel is often the narrator themselves. As a narrator, have you ever identified yourself with one the characters you have created in the books you have written? If so, what do you share in common?

OB: I have a sarcastic perspective. I don’t know… This may be a method of standing up for myself, which I have adapted to the increasingly tough world. In this way, I feel less angry and less upset. I also arranged the perspective of my book heroes in a sarcastic way. They are funny, but they also disturb bad people. All of my characters are animal-lovers, women’s rights activists and they question life. Although I do not directly refer my life, there are traces of many of my stories in my novels.

You have been working on a new book, what will be the theme of that book? What has motivated you to write a new piece while a huge population has been struggling with pandemic-based depressive feelings?

OB: I didn’t feel depressed during the pandemic period. I am aware that I’m not immortal. If we, somehow, came to an end, there is nothing we can do. It matters to redeem the rest of our time, that’s why I’m writing a book on vegan lifestyle. I will try to explain how wrong is the idea of ​​”you are the superior being, the animals are far below you” -which is constantly being imposed on humanity. There are no such terms as being above or below in existence. Aren’t we all parts of the nature? How come a single piece can dominate the whole? We need to realize that the lamb on your lunch plate is no different from your cat. Now, is the time to wake up.

Quick Fire Questions

What is the most tragic and funniest thing that ever happened to you after you moved to Greece?

OB: In the summer of 2018, my throat swelled grossly. I went to a private hospital to print medication. They asked for dozens of tests for a simple sore throat. I understood that I was piling up, but I couldn’t answer since I was in a dreadful state. That was my worst moment here, I will never go to a private hospital anymore.

Tell us one thing you have recently learned about Greek society/culture. 

OB:Greek people are not obsessed with the origin of foods as we do. They don’t care if the food originated in Ottoman or Byzantium, the taste of the pieces matters to them more and I love that aspect of Greeks.

Tell us one thing you have been doing to boost your energy during pandemic. 

OB: Cooking the things I miss. Ramadan pita, dolmadakia or red velvet cake. That motivated me to see that I could do things that seemed difficult to me before.

Name the place that attracts you the most in Greece.

OB: I am new in the city so even going out on the streets is enough to feel good. I don’t have a particular place in mind but the streets in Athens, the Greek islands and ouzo tables are valuable to me.

Name a person who has influenced you and your career. 

OB: Of course, Madonna! I learned not to give up and try new things all the time. She is not just a singer, but also a freedom fighter.

Name a Greek and a Turkish person you had enjoyed the most while interviewing with. 

OB: A Turkish singer, Teoman, is the person I had enjoyed interviewing the most because he had never beaten about the bush. Here in Athens, I really like the interview I conducted with Valeron. Talking to a modern musician was a great experience for me. 

Describe a behavior that you consider as cringe

OB: I do not tolerate anyone who interrupts someone else’s word. I hold the same attitude towards people, who see their own thoughts as the most accurate ones.

*All visual contents in things are provided by Oben Budak.