Proverb – Persian

vajab sahd cheh vajab yeh cheh gozasht saresh az ahb

hand-width hundred whether hand-width one whether over his head by water

The water is over his head, whether a little or a lot.

My father told me this proverb and he said that, like most Persian proverbs, it is ancient and routes back to hundreds of years.  This is also a well-known proverb that people, in modern times, still continue to say.  The proverb basically means that once you are in trouble and have “dug yourself into a whole”, it does not matter how close or deep you are, you are still in trouble.

When my dad told me this proverb, I had not heard it before.  When my family tells me new proverbs, riddles, or tongue twisters, I always try to memorize them so that I could use them in the future.  This proverb, however, took me a while to memorize.  I have never heard the word “vajab” before and when I asked my dad what it meant, he said that a “vajab” is the distance from the thumb to the pinky finger of a hand.  So the proverb literally means “The water is over his head, whether one hand-width or a hundred hand-widths.”

I think this proverb is really interesting.  It is fairly accurate to say that once someone is in trouble, he is in trouble.  It does not matter if he is in a little bit of trouble or a lot of trouble.  It would take the same amount of effort to get out the trouble.  Like in the proverb, if a person is drowning under one “hand-width” of water, it is the same as drowning under a hundred “hand-widths” of water because he is still drowning.

Even though I have never heard this proverb before, my dad says that it is well known in Iran.  He said that everybody says it, in context, when they want to describe a situation of making amends and getting out of trouble.