Team Kitaab is in conversation with Taran N. Khan, the author of Shadow City (Published by Penguin India, 2020) where we discuss Kabul, her love for the city and her fascination for it which led to this book.

Taran N. Khan is a journalist and non-fiction writer based in Mumbai. Her writing has appeared in GuernicaAl JazeeraBerfroisHimal SouthasianGulf News and Dagsavisen, as well as in leading publications in India like The CaravanOpenThe Hindu and Scroll.in. She has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, Logan Non-Fiction 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.

Taran N. Khan’s Shadow City is a fascinating read on Kabul. Interestingly, the first thing, Khan, was told when she reached Kabul, was to never venture for a walk. And that is exactly what she did- explore the city through walks, which further led to this book.

From “I have a complicated relationship with walking…” to writing a book on exploring an entire city through a series of walks. Has writing this book redefined walks/walking for her, we wondered. To which Khan says, “The book was shaped in part by this complicated relationship, which is still evolving. During the recent lockdown in Mumbai, for instance, I was not able to walk as often as I used to. When I did go out, it felt like a different terrain. Emptied of its crowds, the bare bones of the metropolis emerged, and I could see features that had always existed, but had been invisible to me.”

Taran N. Khan takes us through the lanes of Kabul, creating an elegant cartography of poets, museums, archaeologists and local book markets.


Written on the City

The road to Kabul is made of stories. A fragment of a memory leads me to the afternoon when I first read about the city, in a book I found on Baba’s shelves. The adults were deep in sleep; the house filled with the kind of stillness in which fables begin. The short story I perused was written by the legendary Bengali writer Rabindranath Tagore in 1892.