by: Kamala Markandaya. Nectar in a Sieve is a novel by Kamala Markanday that was first published in Characters. Character List · Rukmani · Nathan. Read Nectar in a Sieve book reviews & author details and more at Kamala Markandaya is absolutely a brilliant story teller, Nectar in a sieve was. Nectar in a Sieve has ratings and reviews. Aditi said: “There is no greatness where there is not simplicity, goodness, and truth.” Leo T.

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Nectar in a Sieve is On Markandaya’s first novel to be published although it is actually the third novel she wrote. It became a best-seller around the world and was translated into seventeen languages.

The novel was published inless than a decade after India won its independence from Britain. Nectar in a Sieve is clearly influenced by this event, portraying some of the problems encountered by the Indian people as they dealt with the changing times.

Kamalq never mentions a specific time or place, however, which gives the story universality. Some of the struggles that the main character, Rukmani, faces are the result of the changing times, but they are the kinds of struggles poverty, death, loss markandayq tradition that are experienced by many people for many reasons. Far beyond its political context, the novel is appealing to modern readers for its sensitive and moving portrayal of the strength of a woman struggling with forces beyond her control.

It is a story about the resilience of the human spirit and the importance of values. Her family was Brahmin, the highest caste in Hindu society. Markandaya made an effort to know markandaa just the city in which she lived, but also the markanvaya areas.

She was educated at the University of Madras in Chennai, India, and worked briefly for a weekly newspaper before emigrating to England in There she met her husband, with whom she lives today in London. They have one daughter. Markandaya has made England her home, but she has made many visits to India over the years, returning to stay in touch with her culture and to find inspiration marjandaya information for her fiction.

As a writer, Markandaya is respected for her accessible writing style and the range of experience expressed in her novels.

Critics generally commend her portrayals of personal relationships, social consciousness, and the desire for independence. While Nectar in a Sieve tells the story of a peasant woman facing an array of difficulties, Markandaya’s markandaay novels range in subject matter from the middle class to the urban poor to the struggle between Western and Indian ideas and nwctar of life.

Because her own life does not include all of these experiences, Markandaya has been criticized by some Indian reviewers for a lack of true connection to the poor. Other critics accuse Markandaya of losing touch with markaneaya identity by living in England. Markandaya’s response is that her adult life in England—her choice to be an outsider—gives her an objective perspective on her native culture. Nectar in a Sieve is a first-person narrative told by Rukmani, the widow of a poor tenant farmer in India during the early s.

She begins her story with her marriage to Nectat. The marriage is arranged, and because Rukmani is the fourth daughter and there is very little dowry, her best match is to a poor rice farmer. She begins her life with him and finds him to be very kind and loving. He is so understanding that he is not threatened by her ability to read and write. Soon, she gives birth to their first child, a daughter named Irawaddy “Ira”. She is worried, however, when many years pass and no more children come.

Just prior to her mother’s death, Rukmani meets the man caring for her mother, a Western doctor named Kennington “Kenny”. She talks to him about her inability to conceive, and he helps her. Rukmani never tells Nathan that the reason she gives birth to four sons in four years is because of Kenny’s help. The family is very happy, despite having little food or money. Years later, a tannery is built in the small village where Rukmani and her family live.


While many villagers welcome it, Rukmani is resistant because of the changes it brings to the community. When her two oldest sons go to work in the tannery, she is forced to accept it. Ira is now fourteen and old enough to marry. Rukmani has a matchmaker find a good husband, even though there is a small dowry.

Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya – Reading Guide – : Books

A favorable match is made, and Ira moves to the home of her husband. Five years later, a terrible monsoon destroys Rukmani’s home and rice paddy. For a long time, they survive on very little food. Unfortunately, Ira’s husband returns her because she has failed to give him any children.

Rukmani arranges for Kenny to provide infertility treatment for Ira, but Ira’s husband has already taken another wife.

Rukmani gives birth to another child, a boy named Ruki. Ira nurtures him, and when lack of food threatens his life, Ira becomes a prostitute to earn money to feed him. Still, the child dies. Meanwhile, Rukmani’s sons have lost their jobs in the tannery and markandayaa to answer a call for laborers markandata tea plantations on the island of Ceylon. Another of Rukmani’s sons has taken a job far away as a servant.

When a drought hits, the family struggles once again. Rukmani and Nathan are forced to sell everything they have of value just to buy food for the family.

When the rain finally comes, it is too markanadya for that year’s crop. One of the neighbors’ wives, Kunthi, arrives at Sjeve house, demanding rice and threatening to tell Mrkandaya about Rukmani’s secret visits to Kenny.

Afraid that Nathan will not understand that the visits were for Ira’s infertility, Rukmani gives Kunthi some rice, even though it means that her own family will have too little.

Rukmani learns that Kunthi also blackmails Nathan for rice, threatening to tell Rukmani that two of Kunthi’s sons were fathered by Nathan. One of Rukmani’s sons is killed at the tannery for trying to steal a pelt to sell.

Soon ni, the paddies are finally harvested, and the family has money again. The youngest of Rukmani’s sons, Selvam, breaks the news that he is not interested in a life of farming and has decided to accept a job with Kenny at the new hospital which is being built.

Ira becomes pregnant and gives birth enctar an albino child. Rukmani knows that, as hard as life would have been for Ira, it will be more difficult with an illegitimate child whose appearance frightens many of the villagers.

Selvam loves the child and supports his sister. The man who owns the land Nathan works informs them that he is selling the land to the tannery owner. Nathan is almost fifty years old and knows no other life but farming. Having few choices, Rukmani and Nathan decide to go find their son Murugan who is a servant far away and live with him and his wife.

Rukmani and Nathan take the hundred-mile journey to find Murugan. When they arrive, they find that he changed jobs siece years previously. When they go to find him, they nectxr his wife. She tells them that he has abandoned her, and now she must work as a housekeeper to support herself and her children. Rukmani and Nathan have no place to stay, and their possessions and money have been stolen, so they go to the temple where beggars are fed once every day and given a place to sleep.

They meet a boy named Puli, who is mafkandaya streetwise orphan. He shows them where they can break stones for money, and they eventually save enough to return home.


Nectar in a Sieve

Unfortunately, Nathan collapses before they leave and dies. Rukmani returns to her village, bringing Puli with her, and stays with Selvam and Ira.

She is exhausted upon arrival and simply tells them that Nathan died peacefully. Rukmani’s first son, Arjun is an energetic boy who grows into an impassioned man. He and his brother Thambi go to work in the tannery, but when they organize the workers in an effort to demand more money, they lose their jobs.

Because money beyond what the young men can earn locally is so necessary to a decent standard of livinghe and Thambi take jobs on the distant island of Ceylon and are never seen again. Biswas is the moneylender in town and the only character who never seems to nectae from a lack of resources.

Rukmani finds him untrustworthy and unpleasant because of his flippant manner of speaking and his suggestions that Rukmani and Kenny have an inappropriate relationship.

Because Biswas has money, Rukmani sells him some of her garden produce, and she has no choice but to go to him when she has to sell her fine saris. Irawaddy “Ira” is Rukmani’s only daughter. She is beautiful, hard-working, and nurturing.

She is married at the age of fourteen but fails to produce children and so xieve returned home. She cares for her baby brother Kuti in a maternal way, resorting to prostitution to earn money to feed him.

Later, she becomes pregnant and gives birth to an albino son Sacrabani, whose abnormalities she seems not to see. She sees him with a mother’s eyes and resents the hurtful comments made by jamala of the villagers.

Kali is the wife of a farmer who works a neighboring field. She is very gracious to Rukmani when she has her daughter, helping her through labor and taking care of the house while she recovers.

Although she likes to exaggerate stories and is a bit gullible, Kali is likeable and loved by Rukmani. In later years, however, the women drift apart and when Kali arrives to markaneaya Ira’s baby, she makes rude remarks.

The years seem to have stripped her of her sensitivity and kindness.

Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya

Kennington “Kenny” is the white doctor in kamxla who provides modern medical care for the poor people of the village.

He is not there year-round, however; he explains that he can only stand to be there for certain spans of time. He becomes frustrated with many of the local customs and seeing so much poverty weakens his spirit.

Kenny cares for Rukmani’s mother in her last days and then addresses Rukmani’s infertility problem. Rukmani is forever grateful, and Kenny becomes a friend of the family. When he visits, he sometimes brings milk or food. He helps one son secure a job as a servant in a distant city, and offers another son a job as an assistant in a new hospital that is being built. Little is said about Kenny’s own family, except that he has a wife and children whom he refuses to allow to restrict his “come and go” lifestyle.

At one point in the novel, he tells Ruk-mani that his wife i left him. He seems saddened by this, but his is a solitary way of life, and he accepts loneliness. Kenny’s calling is to treat the sick and help the poor as evidenced by the way he raises funds for the hospital while he is gone from the village.