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Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya-Online Book Summary


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Now that Ira is 14, Ruku decides she has waited long enough to plan her only daughter’s marriage. She goes to Old Granny to make the match. Ruku has managed to save 100 rupees for Ira’s dowry and hopes that Ira’s beauty will also help to make a good match. After weeks of considering possible husbands, Ruku and Nathan decide on a young man who will one day inherit land; although Ira’s dowry is small, her beauty helps seal the deal.

As the wedding day draws near, Ira puts on a brave face. Despite promises of visits, both Ruku and Ira know that the distance of Ira’s new home will make visiting difficult. Ruku assures Ira that she will soon forget to miss her old life while enjoying her new home and husband.

On the wedding day, Ruku helps Ira dress in her own red wedding sari. The guests arrive. Despite their poverty, Ruku has managed to lay away enough food for a wedding feast. Everyone remarks on the handsome wedding couple and congratulates Old Granny on her matchmaking skills. The young couple seems overwhelmed and sits without looking at each other.

At the end of the celebration, Ruku and her guests see the young couple off. Afterwards, Ruku returns home to her hut, littered with remnants of the days feasting. Saddened by the Ira’s departure, Ruku lays down for the night, unable to sleep.


Like her mother before her, Ira will marry at a young age to a boy she’s never met. Ruku chooses Old Granny as the matchmaker; although she worries Old Granny will refuse because Ruku no longer does business with her, Old Granny gladly accepts. The matchmaker was responsible for finding eligible families and “selling” them on each other.

Although Ira is from a poor family and has a relatively small dowry, her looks help to make a good match with a boy who will one day inherit land. Ruku hopes her daughter will have an easier life as the wife of a landowner than she has had. Ruku is reminded of her own feelings as a child bride and tries to reassure her daughter. Ira, quiet and uncomplaining, worries only about the frequency of her mother’s visits. Both know the distance will keep them apart.

As she dresses Ira in her own wedding clothes, Ruku is again reminded of her own fear on her wedding day. Everyone seems to enjoy the feast Ruku has prepared, except the newlyweds who sit as strangers. The match seems perfect, but Ruku, the narrator, remarks: “none of us could look into the future.” This foreshadows Ira’s trouble to come.

After the wedding feast, Ruku returns to find her house a mess. The disarray reflects her inner feelings - she is happy her daughter has married well but saddened that she will no longer have her close.

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Sinclair, Meredith. "TheBestNotes on Nectar in a Sieve". . 09 May 2017