If you’ve read Tamarind Mem or The Hero’s Walk, you’ve probably been waiting for Anita Rau Badami to come out with a third novel. Can You Hear The Nightbird Call? has just been released in Canada–I don’t know whether she intended the resonance, but the title immediately made me think of Khushwant Singh’s I Shall Not Hear the Nightingale, they could easily be the first and second lines of a Lyrical Indian poem.
Canada.com has a report:
Can You Hear the Nightbird Call? (Random House), Badami’s third major work of fiction, is a richly textured story that follows the lives of three women, set against a background of watershed events in India’s – and ultimately Canada’s – recent history: the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan; the Indian army’s invasion of Sikhism’s holiest shrine, the Golden Temple in Amritsar; Gandhi’s assassination four months later by two Sikh bodyguards; and the 1985 Air India bombing, the largest mass murder in Canadian history.
The Globe and Mail interviewed Badami:
Writer Anita Rau Badami was honeymooning in New Delhi when Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards in 1984, and amid the ensuing tumult she saw the corpse of a man who had been burned alive by the Hindu thugs who took revenge on any Sikh they could find. The following year, Badami’s neighbour from her home in Chennai in southern India died in the terrorist bombing of Air India Flight 182, and his disconsolate widow committed suicide.
It’s a challenging period of history, and it should be interesting to see how Badami fictionalises this. I’m trying not to be put off by the sari-and-flowers cover; with Badami, it’s what’s inside that usually counts.