How a 50-year-old Nepali song about cats and dogs spread to India and other parts of the world

When Deepti D’Cunha was on her maiden visit to Sikkim in 2011, she found herself being chased by a song everywhere. The “immensely hummable” tune put her in “a skippy, joyous mood” every time, even though all she could catch was the refrain Resham Firiri, Resham Firiri. “It was such a catchy tune, and it seemed to be omnipresent,” recalled D’Cunha, a Mumbai-based film programmer. “It got stuck in my head, and I wanted to hear it everywhere.”

So enamoured was D’Cunha that during a jeep ride through the mountains, she asked her friend and host Chetan Raj Shrestha to translate it for her. The request stumped Shrestha, although the Sydney-based author had grown up with the Nepali folk number. “It was an ingrained melody,” he said in an email interview. “I knew the lyrics but had never questioned it.” His attempts at translating it for D’Cunha inspired an important passage in his novella Open and Shut Case.

Much like D’Cunha, one of Shrestha’s characters, Straun, a European tourist travelling from Nepal to Sikkim, is captivated by Resham Firiri and wants to hear it in “all the recesses of its founding environment”. Even when travelling in the “cushioned unity” of an over-crowded shared taxi, he asks the driver to play the song and requests his fellow passengers to translate it.

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