22 Nov

I hear a man’s voice on the news, and immediately it has my attention. Now a woman speaks in a similar manner, a familiar pattern of speech, one I know well. They speak in a borrowed language, bending and stretching and filling it, marking it with their histories and traditions, making it their own, another home for their voices. They speak comfortably, confidently and fluently in a language that tried to discomfort, belittle and undermine them.

The rhythm of speech is uncontained in this borrowed language. The patterns refuse to fit, and the intonations are out of order. It has an alien tongue, giving well-worn words different dimensions and alternate realities. Imported lives, bodies and sounds weave new threads and add texture to each word, changing the landscape of the language.

We hear it distinctly and differently.

You mock it so casually, without hesitation, with no harm intended. It is an easy target for your lazy laughter, an endless source of amusement. Too easily recognisable, their accents are unappealing and ugly in this language, your language. There is no time to understand. Every word spoken is dissected and mimicked. You make its speakers one-dimensional, inept and redundant, but with no harm intended.

My ears translate it. I hear the voices of my family, aunts and uncles, cousins and friends. It is spun with warmth and laughter, kindness and comfort, sadness and longing, tenderness and loss. It is the sound of home, and of complete, unquestioned, abundant, never-ending love. It is a code conveying extraordinary generosity and everyday ordinariness.

It rests deep in my being, always instantly decoded. It is the voice of my mother and father. It is beauty and life.

It is a code that you, pitifully, are unable to decipher and hear in its entirety and magnanimity. It is a code for a hidden world.


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