Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya-Online Book Summary |
Several years after her marriage, Ira returns to her parentsí home along with her husband. Her husband is divorcing her as she has yet to bear him any children. Nathan does not fault her husbandís decision; it is, after all, a womanís duty to bear children. Ruku feels sharply her daughterís pain and decides to ask Kenny to help Ira as he once helped her.
Meanwhile, Rukuís oldest son Arjun announces he is taking a job at the tannery. Ruku is dismayed as he should be a farmer like his father, but Arjun sees no future in that path. Ruku has taught her children to read and write and Arjun has used this skill to gain insight about his situation - he tells his parents he is tired of hunger and struggling for survival. Ruku offers to have Kenny help secure Arjun a job but he will not have it.
Thambi follows his brother to the tannery, telling his father he will not work the land that does not belong to his own family, as it will bring them nothing. Nathan is hurt by his sonsí words and rejection of his lifestyle but does not protest their decision.
The family benefits from the increased income and is once again able to afford a few luxuries such as new clothing. Ruku notes that she and Nathan have their best clothes tucked safely away for the day when their sons marry.
Children, especially sons, were of utmost importance in Indian families. A wife that did not bear children was a failure, no matter what her other skills may be. Ruku points out to Nathan that he had great patience during her own years of infertility but, sadly for Ira, most men were not so understanding. Ruku hopes that Kenny will be able to help her daughter as he helped her but does not stop to consider the fact that Iraís husband has already abandoned her.
Arjun and Thambiís decision to work in the tannery hurts Ruku and Nathan. Ruku abhors everything about the tannery and doesnít want to become dependant on it. Nathan would like to see his sons follow in his footsteps. The caste system in India dictates that a man is supposed to follow in his fatherís profession - thus Rukuís comment that her sons are not of the tanner class and society will not like their decision to work as a tanner.
Unlike their parents, Arjun and Thambi see no point in laboring on land they can never hope to own. Although they do not speak of it, Ruku and Nathan must now realize their old dream of owning the land is dead. In educating her children, Ruku has given them the tools to reach beyond the life of a simple peasant - Arjunís mysterious scribblings and secret readings suggest he may be doing just that. Arjun resents his motherís offer to ask Kenny for help; his comment that white men have power over women shows his distrust of those he perceives as being in power.
The extra money is welcome. Sons are expected to help provide for their families and Rukuís sons hold true to their family responsibility. The money is spent frugally. Rukuís continued hope is seen in her insistence in setting away their wedding finery for the day when their sons marry.
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Sinclair, Meredith. "TheBestNotes on Nectar in a Sieve".
. 09 May 2017