Gohar Wazir

BANNU: Wakeel Khan might not have imagined that the couplet he sang requesting the deadly coronavirus pandemic to go away, would attract millions of audience.
The Pashto rhyme “zar zar corona” went viral as it hit the social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, and WhatsApp in November. It has been liked by many as it perfectly depicts public miseries in the post-lockdown era.
Penned by the singer himself, the Pashto rhyme explains men’s inability to cope with the challenge of the pandemic. In a traditional and lighter way, the poet requests the pandemic to go away as it has caused mass-scale unemployment. As the song says:
Za za corona
Maray za bas de corona
Khalaq de westi di da khpalo mazdoro na
(Go back corona please; you have left many people jobless)

The song also sheds light on people’s anxiety and depression caused by continuous lockdown. At the same time, it also criticizes the media for the role it played in escalating public anxiety and creating fear among them. In another stanza, the poet pins hopes that the year 2021 may bring happiness and joy to people’s lives.
The song is neither recorded in a proper studio nor it is filmed in a movie. Instead, it is performed live in a local music program with traditional rabab and tabla instruments.
Wakeel Khan lives in Karachi and receives kidneys dialysis twice a week as he has been suffering from kidneys dysfunction. In a TV interview, he said that he penned the poem when the lockdown was imposed and everyone was uncertain what to do.
“I had always been fearing what would happen if I didn’t receive dialysis in time due to the lockdown. I would fear that I might die if I didn’t receive the treatment,” he told the TV.
Many social media users have commented on the video on different platforms. One, Tariq G. Bajauri commented on a Facebook page that he had been mesmerized by the creativity of the lyrist and the singer. Another Facebook user Zahid Khan remarked that the song provided good entertainment in these COVID-infested times and more such items should be prepared by the singers and musicians. Some other users have criticized the song and wrote that the pandemic should not be ridiculed.
The coronavirus pandemic has completely changed the socio-economic scenario in different countries including Pakistan. After the outbreak of the disease in Pakistan in March, the government imposed a countrywide lockdown and ordered the closure of all the business centers, bazaars, government and private offices, public transport, wedding halls, and educational institutions to prevent the further spread of the pandemic. Hundreds of thousands of people lost their jobs and livelihoods as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
Like many other sectors, the pandemic also left an indelible mark on the local literature and experts foretell the fallouts will be long lasting and deep as time passes.
Like Wakeel Khan, other poets and writers are also expressive about the coronavirus pandemic. Some of them have highlighted the precautionary aspect of the pandemic and tried to create awareness among the public regarding preventive measures and following the SOPs set by the government.
Professor Dr. Ibrar Dawar, chairman of the Pashto department at the Bannu Degree College, says that the coronavirus pandemic has left a visible impact on Pashto literature in a very short period. “Presently, the impact of the coronavirus pandemic is visible in poetry and it will soon appear in prose. Authors will write short stories and novels and highlight the miseries of the people. I also foresee scholars will write research papers and thesis on the fallouts of the pandemic on different sectors,” Dr. Ibrar, who is known by his pen name Bezar Dawar, says.
“Writers get motivation from what they see and observe. During the insurgency period, lots of poets and writers, through their poetry and writings, condemn terrorism and tried to promote peace and harmony. Their work played a great role in creating awareness among the public. Similarly, writers and poets will continue to educate the public about the pandemic and the precautionary measures as directed by health experts and government authorities,” Dawar continues.
Several noted Pashto poets have penned songs about the pandemic which have received tremendous response from the people. Songs sung by singers like Karan Khan and Haroon Bacha, who have vast fan-following, are very much popular nowadays and have attracted a large audience.
Dr. Bezar Dawar gives the example of some poets, who have articulately explained the pandemic and tried to convince the people about the SOPs such as keeping social distancing, staying at home, and avoiding crowded places.
Some of the poets, Dr. Bezar explains, have also tried to disprove certain myths associated by some illiterate persons with the coronavirus pandemic.
It is obvious that humanity at present is faced with a gigantic challenge in the shape of the coronavirus pandemic and different countries have been applying different strategies to cope up with the challenge. For many, this pandemic is a challenge but for others, it is turned into an opportunity. Poets, writers, and other people associated with art and creativity are making the maximum out of this challenge.