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Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya-Online Book Summary


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The rice is finally harvested and the yield is good. As Nathan predicted, the family finds the strength to complete the work. After it is done, they break down in an exhausted laughter at the sight of their skeletal frames streaked with dirt and sweat.

The mood is once again hopeful and joyous. There will be enough money to pay the land dues and enough for all to eat. Ruku makes plans to start her garden again. After selling the rice at market, the family gives grateful prayers of thanks.


After the horror of famine, the loss of two sons and the shaming of their daughter, Ruku and Nathan finally have a moment of joy. Ruku says their thin bodies are reminders of the hardship they have just suffered but that those difficult times are already being put behind them. Exhilarated by the successful harvest, the four remaining family members plan, once again, for a hopeful future.



Rukuís garden has done well and she goes to town to sell her surplus. She no longer does business with Biswas but he stops her with the news of Kennyís return. He also insinuates that Ruku should be especially pleased at this news - Kunthi has told him her lie about Ruku and Kenny. Ruku grows angry but decides Biswas is a snake not worth her time and goes on.

Despite the messenger, Ruku is glad of the news and goes at once to find Kenny. When she arrives she feels somewhat foolish; she had brought him a garland of welcome and sees that others before her have done the same. She welcomes Kenny anyway and relates to him the troubles of the drought and the death of her sons.

Ruku asks Kenny about his own family. He tells her his wife has left him and taken their sons. Ruku understands Kennyís absence caused the break up of his marriage but also tells him that his wife should have come with him wherever he chose to go. For Kenny, this is overly simplistic and he rejects it. Ruku explains to Kenny that their ways are different and that she knows he will never fully understand them no matter how long he is in India. Kenny responds with admiration for Rukuís simple wisdom.

As she leaves, Ruku tells Kenny Ira is pregnant. He offers congratulations but she wonders if it would have been better if Ira had remained barren. The childís father is unknown, one of Iraís many customers. Kenny does not condemn Iraís prostitution and reminds Ruku that a child is always a blessing. Ruku is unsure, remembering the shame filled glances and whispers of neighbors. Kenny responds that the opinions of others arenít important - Ruku recalls Nathan had told her much the same thing.


Ruku shows her temper once again in her encounter with Biswas when he suggests Kenny is more than a friend. Kenny and Rukuís friendship is rare - they have little in common and the only reason that most would see for a white man spending time with an Indian women would be for sexual reasons. The conversation that follows between Ruku and Kenny shows that this is not the case.

Kenny has always struck Ruku as a troubled man; her instincts seem well founded as Kenny tells her his marriage is over. His comments about his lack of country suggest he is an unsettled person trying to find his purpose. It seems he has made it his mission to tend to the poor and helpless in a country far from his own.

Although Kenny doesnít see it at first and often rebukes Ruku for her childlike thinking, Ruku does have wisdom. She reminds Kenny that her lack of knowledge does not equate to stupidity and that the two of them will not agree on certain things (such as whether his wife should have left him) as they are culturally light-years apart.

Ironically, Iraís prostitution has given her the one thing sheís always wanted - a child. For Ruku, the lack of a father is a source of shame - the neighbors have been talking. Kenny does not judge Iraís decision - he understands it was one made out of necessity - and reminds Ruku the child will still be a blessing. Whatever Nathanís feelings about his daughterís behavior, he seems to have forgiven her and, like Kenny, tells Ruku not to be bothered by the judgment of others but to welcome Iraís child as a blessing.

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