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.