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Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya-Online Book Summary

 

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NOVEL SUMMARY - NECTAR IN A SIEVE


PART TWO


CHAPTER 24


Summary

Ruku sadly packs up her few possessions and realizes that in living with her son and his wife, she will no longer have responsibility as mistress of the house. Even though the work is hard, she will miss it. Shortly before leaving, she ties what little money they have snugly around her waist. Selvam, Ira and Sacrabani come to see them off. Ruku and Nathan have secured a ride on a bullock cart carrying finished animal hides back to the city. Ruku notices the bullocks pulling the cart have sores from their harnesses. The cart driver tells her he cannot afford to rest them and drives the pitiful creatures onward.

After two days, they arrive on the outskirts of the city. Ruku and Nathan ask for directions to the street their son lives on and are told it is another 15 miles. They set out on foot. The going is slow and the traffic, noise and dirt of the city overwhelm them. Nathan pulls Ruku aside and they sit to rest, the rush of the city passes them by. An old man nearby suggests they go to the nearby temple for food and shelter as they still have far to go and darkness has already fallen.

On the way to the temple, Ruku and Nathan find themselves a part of a crowd of regulars - mostly the old and disabled. The smells of food they pass along the way make their stomachs turn in hunger. At the temple, Ruku sees statues of the god and goddess with food offerings at their feet. A woman tells her that after the food is blessed it will be served to the poor who have gathered there. As the priests pray, a rush of images from her past floods Rukuís mind.

After the ceremony, a line of pushing, hungry people forms by the food. Ruku and Nathan are separated and Ruku decides to ask for Nathanís portion as well as her own. The food server yells at her and accuses her of trying to take a double portion. She leaves with only her own share of rice and lentils to split with Nathan.

Even this small bit of food refreshes them. After throwing their plantain leaf plates to the goats, Ruku remembers their bundles - they have left them against the wall in another portion of the temple. After much searching they realize the bundles are gone. Sympathetic by-standers tell them that even in the temple there are thieves.


Ruku is upset about going empty handed to her sonís home and she promises herself she will go to the market in the morning. After checking her bundle of money she lays down by Nathan to sleep. But her sleep is troubled as she wakes up often with the sense that something is brushing over her.


Notes

For Ruku and Nathan, moving in with their son means not only giving up their farming way of life but also relinquishing responsibility and decision making to the younger generation - a difficult thing to do no matter where you are from.

Even after the changes brought by the tannery, life in the village is calm and quiet compared to the bustling city Ruku and Nathan land in. They are quickly overwhelmed by its size and crowdedness and the difficult task of locating their son based only on the name of a street. Nathanís ill health makes the task harder - surely they feel very helpless as they try to navigate in this alien environment.

The temple provides a place of refuge, something like a homeless shelter/soup kitchen. Based on the conversations of those around her, Ruku deduces that many there are regulars, people whose very survival depends on this charity. Although she is not one to ask for help, Ruku is all too grateful for a somewhat familiar refuge (it is a temple after all) in the midst of the confusing chaos of the city.

Rukuís inexperience and ignorance of the ways of the city become clear in the temple. She expects honesty and charity and is shocked to be rebuked by those serving the food. Ruku doesnít realize that there are those who would lie to get a bigger handout. Her naivety is even more apparent in her decision to leave her bundles unattended. The trusting country couple is quickly robbed of their last possessions. One can only wonder what Ruku felt brushing her in the night.

Nathanís health is clearly becoming a greater issue. He must frequently rest and is unable to push through the crowd to get his meal. Ruku knows she must stay strong for her husband.


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