Emma Lansdowne is a PhD candidate in the Department of English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University. A professional horticulturalist-turned-academic, her research explores the intersection of plants and colonial/post-colonial histories with a specific focus on gardens as contact zones and sites of resistance.
Anita Rau Badami’s novel Can You Hear the Nightbird Call? gives voice to three female protagonists who spend their lifetimes constructing and negotiating identities shaped by the legacies of multigenerational and cultural traumas. Set against the violent political and sociocultural upheavals of Partition and post-Partition Punjab and its translation to Indian diasporic communities in Canada, the protagonists’ paths of negotiation zigzag through domestic landscapes dotted with plants whose sound, scent, and visual appearance carry the weight of closely-held memories. It is within the novel’s domestic spaces that the women seek expression of their inner and outer selves while they cope with the challenges of a liminal existence. Plants play a key role in contextualizing home in its various iterations and narrating the silences between the novel’s physical, psychological and temporal spaces. This paper explores the role of plants in Nightbird as indicators of violence and evocations of diasporic domestic identity.