#DesiReads: Taran Khan reads from her travel memoir, Shadow City; #DesiBoost: Satish Prabasi on his favorite desi works

Desi Books Ep 17 w/ Taran Khan & Satish Prabasi Desi Books

(available at Anchor.fm, Spotify, Soundcloud, Apple Podcasts, Castbox, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, Breaker, Pocket Casts, RadioPublic, Overcast)

Hello and welcome to Episode 17 of DesiBooks—news and views about desi literature from the world over. I’m your host, Jenny Bhatt. Thank you for tuning in.

In today’s episode, we have Taran Khan reading from her memoir, Shadow City: A Woman Walks Kabul, in #DesiReads. We also have Satish Prabasi sharing his favorite desi works in #DesiBoost. His memoir, Fragments of Memory: A Nepali National’s Reminiscences, is out this month.

And now sit back and enjoy.



You can find all the titles mentioned in this “New Books” segment at bookshop.org, which benefits local, independent booksellers directly. Go to bookshop.org/lists/desi-books-2020. This is a US-based site so my apologies to non-US listeners. But you can still see the list of all the books that have come out in 2020 and been mentioned on the podcast.

I know I don’t always catch all new books by writers of South Asian origin. So, if you’ve got a new book coming out, please tag the Desi Books account on Twitter or Instagram to let me know. You can also send an email to hellodesibooks@gmail.com. The social media links will also be in the transcript and they’re always on the website.

1) I missed this one in September: a new translation from Urdu to English of stories and a novella by Syed Muhammad Ashraf. It’s been done by M Asaduddin and Musharraf Ali Farooqi. It’s titled The Silence of the Hyena.

2) Aditi Machado’s Emporium is a new poetry collection out this month. It “follows a merchant woman as she travels a twenty-first-century “silk route,” trading her wares while becoming “lost” in un-monetizable reciprocities and the sensory excesses of the marketplace.” That’s the official description and it does sound interesting because it goes on to say “coins changing hands, the odors of food and sweat, the “noise” of translation and multilingualism.” Sounds pretty amazing, no?

3) And, oh, hey, I have my first translation out this month too. It’s a selection of the best short stories from the Gujarati short story pioneer, Dhumketu, and spans his entire writing career. The stories were ahead of their time when he wrote them and they read like, to me anyway, timeless classics now. Dhumketu was my mother’s favorite Gujarati writer and, though she’s not here to see the book out, I know she’s with me in spirit. It’s launching in India but it should be available on Amazon in the Kindle version in other countries. The title: Ratno Dholi: The Best Stories of Dhumketu.



Taran N. Khan is a journalist and non-fiction writer based in Mumbai. Her writing has appeared in Guernica, Al Jazeera, Berfrois, Himal Southasian, Gulf News, and Dagsavisen, as well as in leading publications in India like The Caravan, Open, The Hindu, and Scroll.in. She has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, Logan Nonfiction Program, Jan Michalski Foundation, and Pro Helvetia.

From 2006 to 2013, Khan spent long periods living and working in Kabul. Shadow City is her first book based on her journeys around the city during that period. Her guide is her grandfather who, despite never having visited the city, knows it well through books and stories. He’s not actually with her in Kabul but she’s got his voice and his memories in her head as she travels around. Khan’s time with Kabulis who are rebuilding and remaking their ancient city is documented with both a journalistic detail and a flair for the dramatic so that we get unique insights into her own evolution as a woman and a writer and into the city’s transformation through war and more.

So now, sit back and listen to Taran Khan reading from Shadow City: A Woman Walks Kabul.





Satish Prabasi was born in Saptari, Nepal, and grew up in Benares, India. His studies took him to Nottingham in the United Kingdom and The Hague in the Netherlands. His varied working life has included time as an activist academic, a United Nations staff member, and an unsuccessful (he says) entrepreneur. His work and personal life have taken him across Asia, Africa, Australia, and Europe. He now lives in New York with his wife, where he enjoys the company of his two grandchildren and delights in browsing in the city’s many libraries.

Prabasi has a new memoir out this week titled Fragments of Memory: A Nepali National’s Reminiscences. In 1949, Satish Prabasi left his remote village in the Himalayan kingdom of Nepal, traveling by ox-cart, to pursue an education in newly-independent India. This book is the unlikely story of Prabasi’s life from his birth in Nepal to his days as an activist academic in the Netherlands and later as a global traveler and official of the United Nations. Few have experienced the equivalent of two centuries of transformation in one lifetime: from a feudal society to the digital age. Ultimately, Prabasi’s life and journey have been guided by a love for learning and a quest for a purposeful life.

Here’s Satish Prabasi sharing his three desi works. You might want to turn up the volume just a tad as he’s got a soft voice and there’s just a little bit of background sound. But he does have a lovely, soothing voice, the kind you could listen to for hours, really.



1. The Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

2. The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

3. Global Citizen From Gulmi by Kul Chandra Gautam


You’ve been listening to episode 17 of DesiBooks—news and views about desi literature from the world over.

Episode 18 will be up in a couple of weeks. Follow on Twitter @desibooks or Instagram @desi.books and tag the account if you have requests or suggestions. Email at hellodesibooks@gmail.com.

The transcript will be up in the next couple of days or so on the website http://desibooks.co.

Stay healthy, keep reading, and write well.


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