shahr-e chaman se kuchh kam dasht-e junuu;N nahii;N hai
yaa;N gul hai;N rastah rastah vaa;N baa;G dastah dastah

1) not at all less than the city of the garden, is the desert of madness
2) here, roses are in every roadway; there, gardens are in every flower-handful



dastah : 'A handful, bundle; ... a nosegay; a flower-bed'. (Platts p.517)

S. R. Faruqi:

dastah dastah = a collection of flowers, a bouquet

The theme of comparing the city with the desert of madness is fine, and its proof too is solid and complete-- that if in the city here and there gardens have been made, then in the desert too, at every footstep flowers have bloomed. Janab Barkati has [in his dictionary] given for rastah rastah the meaning of 'rank upon rank, line after line', although this meaning is not suitable; nor has he given any 'warrant' or reference. In truth, rastah rastah means 'on every street, in every direction'. This is a special style in Urdu; structures of this kind are common. An example from Nasir Kazmi:

galii galii mirii yaad bichii hai pyaare raste dekh ke chal
mujh se itnii va;hshat hai to meri ;hado;N se duur nikal

[in every street memory of me is spread out, dear-- watch the road as you walk
if you have so much hostility toward me, then go far away from my boundaries]

[Two further such examples are given.]

The meaning of dastah dastah , Janab Barkati has given as 'from place to place, mutually, in one place, together'. This meaning too does no justice to the expression. For dastah dastah is the same kind of intensifying repetition as jastah jastah is in {938,1}. Then, dastah itself has several meanings, but here two meanings suit our purposes: (1) small bouquet [guldastah]; (2) flower-bed. Thus dastah dastah means 'extremely many flowers, abundant bouquets and flower-beds. In the lu;Gat-naamah-e di;xudaa , for dastah dastah there is a separate entry, and this meaning has been given: 'an abundance of flowers', 'bouquet'.

A final question is that in the city there are gardens, flower-beds, and so on, but but why has he said about the desert of madness that yahaa;N gul hai;N rastah rastah ? The answer is in the word 'madness'-- that madmen break their heads, wound themselves, wander on foot, and cause the soles of their feet to be smeared with blood. Their blood falls and drips in many places, so that something like a carpet of roses becomes created on the roads.

Thus Ghalib, taking this image, has composed a peerless [unpublished] verse


There's also one more point: that gul can also mean 'wound'. That is, at many places there are spots of blood. In this case, there's again the same kind of 'reversed metaphor'-- that he has kept the metaphorical sense of 'rose' established, and has also used its dictionary meaning.

[See also {1533,1}.]



Here's an even more wonderful Ghalibian example, the second line of which relies on exactly the same kind of ambiguous, hypnotic repetition that we see in the second line of the present verse:


SRF assumes that 'here' is a city full of gardens (which might or might not be the same as a 'city of the garden'), and 'there' is the 'desert of madness'. But surely it's also possible to reverse the correlations. After all, usually 'here' means where the lover is, and isn't he always at least as likely to be in the desert as in the city? Especially in a verse like this, in which the first line seems to defend the virtues of the desert as against those of the city.

In any case, once we are in the domain of madness, how can we tell which of the two places in the second line corresponds to which location? There are 'roadways' in the city, but roadways can certainly be imagined into the openness of the 'desert of madness' too (I can think of an example or two very easily). And just as SRF has argued for the presence of 'gardens' and 'flowerbeds' in the 'desert of madness', and has even equipped them with a real physical content of blood-drops, so they too are notably present in the city-- it's a city defined by its garden(s), after all. The deliberate blurring of borders between the city and the desert in the second line-- a confusion which is in any case so suitable to the crazed sensibility of a mad lover-- creates an ambiguity that is a central part of the pleasure of the verse.

Note for translation fans: Alas, we really don't have a good translation for dastah as in gul-dastah . We used to have 'nosegay' and 'posy', but we've left them behind. 'Corsage' would be excellent, except that it's so firmly associated with being pinned to the shoulder of a garment. 'Bouquet' can refer to very large floral arrangements. And 'handful of flowers' sounds like a disorderly bunch (though I've gone with 'flower-handful' in my usual pursuit of extreme literalness). Really 'small bouquet' is probably the best we can come up with.