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Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya-Online Book Summary


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This year the monsoon fails and Ruku watches helplessly as the crop dies before the harvest. Not even prayers bring rain. When Sivaji, the landlordís agent, comes to collect the rent he is touched by their plight and offers to collect only half of what is owed now and the rest later. If they cannot pay, they will lose the land. Nathan bitterly remarks that landlords hire agents like Sivaji so they can avoid seeing the suffering they cause in difficult times.

Nathan and Ruku gather together their meager possessions to sell for the rent money. Even Rukuís wedding sari and the family bullocks must go. Ruku goes to Biswas as he is the only one with money to buy such things in times of famine. After some hard bargaining, Ruku gets the money needed for the land dues.

Still there is not enough. Ruku and Nathan argue over whether not to sell the seed they will need for the next planting. Nathan wants to sell, as it will do them no good if they lose the land. After much yelling, he gives in to a wailing Ruku and keeps it.

Sivaji returns and again Nathan must beg him to give them more time. Sivaji agrees and the land is safe - at least until the next year.

The drought continues and all around is death and suffering. Fights break out over the villageís last water supply. Finally, when all is dead and past recovery, the rain falls; even Ruku can find no joy.


This chapter begins the most trying period in Rukuís life - the drought and itís aftermath. With the loss of their yearís crop, Ruku and Nathan have no means to pay the rent. They take a gamble in selling all they have but to lose the land would be worse as they would have no hope of ever supporting themselves. The argument over selling the seed symbolizes the tough choices they must make - if the seed is gone they may save the land but risk having nothing to plant; if they save the seed they may lose the place to plant it.

Rukuís encounter with Biswas shows her quiet shrewdness and her ability to ďget an attitudeĒ when the wellbeing of her family is at stake. Biswas is quick to remind Ruku that only his favor towards her gets her the money. In much the same way, it is only Sivajiís kindness that buys Nathan the chance to save his land. Those in Ruku and Nathanís position often find themselves at the mercy of others.

The utter hopelessness of the situation is seen in the squabbling over what little water there is. When the rain comes, it is almost a cruel joke as the fields are long dead and past saving. For Ruku and her family, the difficult times have just begun.

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