HomeGroupsTalkZeitgeist
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Can You Hear the Nightbird Call? by Anita…
Loading...

Can You Hear the Nightbird Call? (2006)

by Anita Rau Badami

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
159875,058 (3.98)34

None.

Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 34 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
What began as a somewhat hopeful book, quickly and devastatingly spiralled into a travesty. I was left with the shock of death and loss for all characters and after reading the novel I was angry at its historical injustices.

At the same time, I regretted investing emotional attachments to characters who were deeply flawed. My sense of the novel's downfall lay at the heart of the characters' weakness to pride.

From Harjot Singh's listlessness and "disappearance" long before he actually decided to leave his family because of his wounded pride of not being able to land at the shores of Vancouver once arriving by the Komagata Maru.

To his daughter, Sharanjeet (Bibi-ji) Kaur, who privately resents her station in life and her duties, unhappy to be obedient to her mother or selfless to her sister, Kanwar. But this attitude is not entirely due to her spoiled upbringing, but rather an internal pride, vanity, and materialistic ambition that drives her to steal her sister's marriage prospect, Khushwant (Pa-ji) Singh and eventually her niece's own son, Jasbeer.

Leela (Shastri) Bhat is ostracized by her grandmother, Akka, and her father's relatives because she is considered a "half-breed," a daughter of a Punjab, Hari Shastri and an English woman, Rosa Schweers. And rather than accept her genetic fate and cultural liminality, she loathes her own grey eyes, fair skin, and "White" culture. Instead she prides herself in becoming the wife of a prosperous and prestigious man, Balachandra (Balu) Bhat, who comes from a well known Punjab family and high caste, and submerges herself in adhering to Indian traditional practices. Leela, opposite of Bibi-ji, resents being pulled from her home in India to Vancouver, fearful of becoming yet again, nameless. Yet, though she suffered racial cruelty from her Indian grandmother, she fails to understand and accept her son's choice in marriage to an English woman.

These and other characters provide a backdrop to the cruelty and harshness of the warring factions of the Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh people, which led to The Partition of India (with its Hindu majority) and Pakistan (with its Muslim majority). Violent acts of brutality by government and militant groups climaxed to the eventual killings of pilgrims at the Golden Temple. This act in itself prompted the assassination of Prime Minister, Indira Ghandi, which then led to vengeful killings of Sikhs throughout India. And a year later, Air India Flight 182 is bombed killing 329 people on board from Canada over the Atlantic Ocean.

Perhaps it was Badami's intent to situate her characters at the "wrong time in the wrong place," but also to propel them forward into devastation and loss due to extremely wrong choices that stem from deeply rooted pride and discord.

The book is without resolution. It is merely a haunting reminder of the brutality and injustice of war, the interconnectedness between people, their actions, and their consequences, and the cost of life for the sake of land, name, autonomy, and religious freedom, where moderation seems to be the best answer, though rarely used.

It's a novel of extremes, but then again, extremity is at the heart of this book's subject and a lesson of tempering it, is still yet to be learned.
( )
  ZaraD.Garcia-Alvarez | Jun 6, 2017 |
“Indra the god of heaven flung a net over the world … Its shining strands criss-crossed the world from end to end. At each node of this net there hung a gem, so arranged that if you looked at one you saw all the others reflected in it. As each gem reflected every other one, so was every human affected by the miseries and joys of every other human, every other living thing on the planet. When one gem was touched, hundreds of others shimmered or danced in response, and a tear in the net made the whole world tremble.” (106)

Can You Hear the Nightbird Call?, set in India and Canada, takes place over several decades from 1928 to 1985. It is the story of three women, two Sikh and one Hindu, and their families, which begins in the women’s childhoods. Bibi-ji, born in Panjaur, steals her sister’s fate in marrying and immigrating to Vancouver. Leela, of Bangalore, is “half and half” Indian and German, part of two worlds but wholly belonging to neither – ultimately, she, too, will emigrate from India to live in Vancouver, sharing in Bibi-ji’s immigrant experience. Finally, Nimmo, of New Delhi, is the daughter of Bibi-ji’s lost sister – haunted well into adulthood by the violence she witnessed as a child when India was first partitioned. As tensions between the Hindus and Sikhs escalate in India, all of the women are affected. Thankfully, they cannot know to what extent their families will have tragedy rained down upon them as the tensions give rise to the massacre at the Golden Temple and the assassination of Indira Ghandi; and eventually climax in the bombing of Air India Flight 182.

Badami skillfully writes not only well-developed characters here. She masterfully integrates point of view into a theme of conflict: the immigrant experience, the Sikhs, the Hindus – and then casts her net, Indra’s net as it were, over all of the enmities – quietly (or perhaps not) reminding us that “so was every human affected by the miseries and joys of every other human, every other living thing on the planet.” In this regard, I think Can You Hear the Nightbird Call? is translated into something much larger than itself. Impressive, and highly recommended.

“Chance brings lives together in unexpected ways and breaks them apart with equal randomness.” (90) ( )
5 vote lit_chick | Jul 7, 2013 |
A gripping tale that places the violence in north-west India in the context of families and of Canadian expatriates. ( )
  Lit.Lover | Mar 4, 2013 |
Can You Hear the Nightbird Call?
By Anita Rau Badami

What began as a somewhat hopeful book, quickly and devastatingly spiralled into a travesty. I was left with the shock of death and loss for all characters and after reading the novel I was angry at its historical injustices.

At the same time, I regretted investing emotional attachments to characters who were deeply flawed. My sense of the novel's downfall lay at the heart of the characters' weakness to pride.
From Harjot Singh's listlessness and "disappearance" long before he actually decided to leave his family because of his wounded pride of not being able to land at the shores of Vancouver once arriving by the Komagata Maru.

To his daughter, Sharanjeet (Bibi-ji) Kaur, who privately resents her station in life and her duties, unhappy to be obedient to her mother or selfless to her sister, Kanwar. But this attitude is not entirely due to her spoiled upbringing, but rather an internal pride, vanity, and materialistic ambition that drives her to steal her sister's marriage prospect, Khushwant (Pa-ji) Singh and eventually her niece's own son, Jasbeer.

Leela (Shastri) Bhat is ostracized by her grandmother, Akka, and her father's relatives because she is considered a "half-breed," a daughter of a Punjab, Hari Shastri and an English woman, Rosa Schweers. And rather than accept her genetic fate and cultural liminality, she loathes her own grey eyes, fair skin, and "White" culture. Instead she prides herself in becoming the wife of a prosperous and prestigious man, Balachandra (Balu) Bhat, who comes from a well known Punjab family and high caste, and submerges herself in adhering to Indian traditional practices. Leela, opposite of Bibi-ji, resents being pulled from her home in India to Vancouver, fearful of becoming yet again, nameless. Yet, though she suffered racial cruelty from her Indian grandmother, she fails to understand and accept her son's choice in marriage to an English woman.

These and other characters provide a backdrop to the cruelty and harshness of the warring factions of the Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh people, which led to The Partition of India (with its Hindu majority) and Pakistan (with its Muslim majority). Violent acts of brutality by government and militant groups climaxed to the eventual killings of pilgrims at the Golden Temple. This act in itself prompted the assassination of Prime Minister, Indira Ghandi, which then led to vengeful killings of Sikhs throughout India. And a year later, Air India Flight 182 is bombed killing 329 people on board from Canada over the Atlantic Ocean.

Perhaps it was Badami's intent to situate her characters at the "wrong time in the wrong place," but also to propel them forward into devastation and loss due to extremely wrong choices that stem from deeply rooted pride and discord.

The book is without resolution. It is merely a haunting reminder of the brutality and injustice of war, the interconnectedness between people, their actions, and their consequences, and the cost of life for the sake of land, name, autonomy, and religious freedom, where moderation seems to be the best answer, though rarely used.

It's a novel of extremes, but then again, extremity is at the heart of this book's subject and a lesson of tempering it, is still yet to be learned. ( )
  Zara.Garcia.Alvarez | Apr 23, 2011 |
This book was fantastic - utterly engrossing. Tracing the lives of two families, one Sikh and one Hindu, through their experiences in India and the immigration of many of them to Canada, this is a story of family life and so, so much more.

Badami explains how religious differences both divide and unite people, and shows just how clearly fanaticism and extremism ultimately destroys everything.

The author created characters that I truly cared about, and I spent most of the last half of the book fearfully turning the pages as I knew what was sure to happen in the end. As a Vancouver resident, the Air India bombing is still impacting lives, and as I read I knew what was coming. In spite of this knowledge, I was still shocked and upset when I did reach the final pages. I'm still sad, actually. ( )
  kjhill45 | Mar 21, 2009 |
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Epigraph
Dedication
First words
Quotations
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0676976050, Paperback)

Set against the tumultuous backdrop of a fragmenting Punjab and moving between Canada and India, Can you Hear the Nightbird Call? charts the interweaving stories of three Indian women – Bibi-ji, Leela and Nimmo – each in search of a resting place amid rapidly changing personal and political landscapes.

The ambitious, defiant Sikh Bibi-ji, born Sharanjeet Kaur in a Punjabi village, steals her sister Kanwar’s destiny, thereby gaining passage to Canada.

Leela Bhat, born to a German mother and a Hindu father, is doomed to walk the earth as a "half-and-half." Leela’s childhood in Bangalore is scarred by her in-between identity and by the great unhappiness of her mother, Rosa, an outcast in their conservative Hindu home. Years after Rosa’s shadowy death, Leela has learned to deal with her in-between status, and she marries Balu Bhat, a man from a family of purebred Hindu Brahmins, thus acquiring status and a tenuous stability. However, when Balu insists on emigrating to Canada, Leela must trade her newfound comfort for yet another beginning. Once in Vancouver with her husband and two children, Leela’s initial reluctance to leave home gradually evolves.

While Bibi-ji gains access to a life of luxury in Canada, her sister Kanwar, left behind to weather the brutal violence of the Partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, is not so fortunate. She disappears, leaving Bibi-ji bereft and guilt-ridden.

Meanwhile, a little girl, who just might be Kanwar’s six-year-old daughter Nimmo, makes her way to Delhi, where she is adopted, marries and goes on to build a life with her loving husband, Satpal. Although this existence is constantly threatened by poverty, Nimmo cherishes it, filled as it is with love and laughter, and she guards it fiercely.

Across the world, Bibi-ji is plagued by unhappiness: she is unable to have a child. She believes that it is her punishment for having stolen her sister’s future, but tries to drown her sorrows by investing all her energies into her increasingly successful restaurant called the Delhi Junction. This restaurant becomes the place where members of the growing Vancouver Indo-Canadian community come to dispute and discuss their pasts, presents and futures.

Over the years, Bibi-ji tries to uncover her sister Kanwar’s fate but is unsuccessful until Leela Bhat – carrying a message from Satpal, Nimmo’s husband – helps Bibi-ji reconnect with the woman she comes to believe is her niece – Nimmo. Used to getting whatever she has wanted from life, Bibi-ji subtly pressures Nimmo into giving up Jasbeer, her oldest child, into her care.

Eight-year old Jasbeer does not settle well in Vancouver. Resentful of his parents’ decision to send him away, he finds a sense of identity only in the stories , of Sikh ancestry, real and imagined, told to him by Bibi-ji’s husband, Pa-ji. Over the years, his childish resentments harden, and when a radical preacher named Dr. Randhawa arrives in Vancouver, preaching the need for a separate Sikh homeland, Jasbeer is easily seduced by his violent rhetoric.

Can You Hear the Nightbird Call? elegantly moves back and forth between the growing desi community in Vancouver and the increasingly conflicted worlds of Punjab and Delhi, where rifts between Sikhs and Hindus are growing. In June 1984, just as political tensions within India begin to spiral out of control, Bibi-ji and Pa-ji decide to make their annual pilgrimage to the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the holiest of Sikh shrines. While they are there, the temple is stormed by Indian government troops attempting to contain Sikh extremists hiding inside the temple compound. The results are devastating.

Then, in October of the same year, Indira Gandhi is murdered by her two Sikh bodyguards, an act of vengeance for the assault on the temple. The assassination sets off a wave of violence against innocent Sikhs.

The tide of anger and violence spills across borders and floods into distant Canada, and into the lives of neighbours Bibi-ji and Leela. Can You Hear the Nightbird Call? weaves together the personal and the political – and beautifully brings the reader into the reality of terrorism and religious intolerance.


Bibi-ji turned to gaze out at the street. They could become far more prosperous, she was sure of that. Opportunities lay around them like pearls on these streets. But they were visible only to people with sharp eyes.

“What are you looking at, Bibi-ji?” Lalloo asked, coming around to the front with a box full of pickle jars. He lowered it carefully on the floor and stared out the window.

“What am I looking for, Lalloo, for,” Bibi-ji corrected. “I am looking for pearls.”

“I don’t see anything there, Bibi-ji,” Lalloo remarked after a few moments.

She laughed. “Neither do I, but I will. I know I will.” The war had left the whole world poorer: why had Pa-ji not thought of opening a used-clothing store instead of this Indian grocery shop? She wondered whether the shop would do better in Abbotsford or in Duncan, where there were more Sikhs than here in Vancouver. But no, she had a feeling that it was a city with a future, one in which she would be wise to invest her money and her hard work.

–from Can You Hear the Nightbird Call?


From the Hardcover edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:45 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Set against the tumultuous backdrop of a fragmenting Punjab and moving between Canada and India, Can You Hear the Nightbird Call? tells the stories of three women, linked in love and tragedy, over a span of fifty years, sweeping from the Partition of India and Pakistan in 1947 to the terrible violence of modern times. Can You Hear the Nightbird Call? moves elegantly back and forth between the Indian community in Canada and the increasingly conflicted worlds of the Punjab and Delhi, where rifts between Sikhs and Hindus are growing. Conflicts that will ultimately come to a head in June 1984, at the holiest of Sikh shrines, the Golden Temple in Amritsar. The tide of anger and violence spills across borders and floods into distant Canada, and into the lives of everyone.… (more)

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
1 avail.
6 wanted

Popular covers

Rating

Average: (3.98)
0.5
1
1.5
2
2.5
3 8
3.5 1
4 13
4.5 6
5 5

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

You are using the new servers! | About | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 117,134,924 books! | Top bar: Always visible