A new novel by an Indo-Canadian author set in the backdrop of watershed events in India and Canada is due to hit bookshelves this week.
Anita Rau Badami's Can You Hear the Nightbird Call? is the story of three women linked and destroyed by the political turmoil that swept Punjab first during the India-Pakistan break up in 1947 and later the Sikh separatist movement that enveloped Indian Punjab in the 1980s.
Badami's third major work of fiction, it contains references to the Indian Army's invasion of the Golden Temple in Amritsar in June 1984, Indira Gandhi's assassination four months later by two of her Sikh bodyguards, and the 1985 Air India bombing in which most of those who died were Indo-Canadians.
According to a Canadian Press report, the book is the result of a sickening sight of a man's body being dumped from a bridge in the course of the 1984 anti-Sikh violence sparked off by Indira Gandhi's killing. The author witnessed the scene when she was returning from her honeymoon in northern India.
Admitting that it was very hard for her to write the book, Badami told Canadian Press over telephone from her home in Montreal: "I'm still horrified. I can see those images so very, very vividly but I didn't know how to write about it."
|Anita Rau Badami's third novel focuses on three women affected by turmoil in the Punjab, in 1947 and 1980s|
"...I probably needed this distance in terms of time and place," she said.
Born in India in 1961, Badami moved to Canada in 1991. In 1995 she earned a master's degree in English literature from the University of Calgary.
Her graduate thesis became her first novel, Tamarind Men, which was published worldwide in 1996.
Her best selling second novel, The Hero's Walk, won the Regional Commonwealth Writers Prize, Italy's Premio Berto and was also named a Washington Post Best Book of 2001.
It was also listed for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Prize and the Orange Prize for Fiction, and short-listed for the Kiriyama Prize.
In 2000, Badami received the Marian Engel Award, instituted by the Writers' Trust of India to honour a woman Canadian novelist who is in the middle of her career.