Essay | The Art of Language and How it Matters in a Pandemic – Paras Abbasi

 

Rutha he rahan par hujan hayati

Bhali paya wirhan suhnra bhali paya wirhan sunhra

Par hujan hayati

Language is sometimes convoluted—too complicated to translate. It has its own expression—the way we move our mouth, open our lips, the way our tongue touches our teeth to make a sound, give it a meaning, no translation could decode the sentiment of it. Therefore, we tend to preserve our languages. Words change over time because people change. Words become archaic because customs and rituals change, and so do habits. Perhaps the feelings change over generations too.

I heard this song when I was little, too little to perhaps remember where the memory comes from, let alone know the meaning of it. But it kept coming back to me, reviving the intimacy of it—in times of sorrow and in moments of joy.

There was a time when I was finally able to grasp the meaning of it but laughed at its romanticism. Was it possible that you keep praying for the life of a beloved when they have forsaken you? (At one point the lyrics of this song talk about the beloved butchering the protagonist but the protagonist keeps praying for their life). But ‘forsaken’ is not the right word for ‘rusanr’. Nor is ‘being angry’. ‘Rusanr’ in Sindhi or ‘roothna’ in Urdu/Hindi is not equivalent to forsaking someone or being angry at them. Perhaps there is no synonym for it in English. ‘Rusanr’ or ‘Roothna’ signifies the state when the beloved does not talk to you, does not respond and yet thinks about you and complains about you so that there is always a flickering hope that they will come back to you if you plead them enough. And thus there is always a ray of hope between the lover and the beloved. Roothna in our desi culture is a common practice—which is why a specific word for it—often between members of the extended family, siblings and friends, besides purely romantic relations. Every desi wedding and funeral would have someone from the family who would need persuasion and pleading because they are ‘ruthay huay’. And so we try to persuade them, bring them back to our side, take benefit of the delicate thread hanging between the two sides. Roothna, besides everything, also signifies a relationship of deep faith, on whose basis one lets go of all contact and yet trusts the other party to return to them.

So when the lines say, rutha he rahan par hujan hayati, bhali paya wirhan suhnra, hujan hayati’(roughly translated to: even if they remain angry, may they be alive/even though they may keep fighting with us, may they be alive), they keep up the hope of the beloved returning to us, because we’ll keep on trying to win them back.

In these uncertain times, when some of our loved ones are thousands of miles away, this Sindhi song resonates more than ever. For now, the anger, arguments, quarrels and squabbles are not important; only lives are. Hence, when words fall short in one language; songs, secondary languages, lines and phrases from books, music and art come to rescue—to articulate how we feel.

“This is why art is important. Art would not be important if life were not important, and life is important.” James Baldwin said in 1961. “Most of us, no matter what we say, are walking in the dark, whistling in the dark. Nobody knows what is going to happen to them from one moment to the next, or how one will bear it. This is irreducible. And it’s true for everybody.” His words have never rung truer.

Paras Abbasi is a poet and a short story writer. Her work has been published in Confluence magazine UK, East Lit Journal, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, New Asian Writing and local news websites in Pakistan . Paras lives in Karachi, Pakistan and can be reached at ofconversations.wordpress.com and on instagram: @ofcoffeeconversations

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