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Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya-Online Book Summary


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Ruku and Nathan easily find the Collectorís house; it is large and stands on a high hill. When they arrive and ask for their son, the servant at the gate takes them around back to Muruganís wife Ammu. Ammu greets them coldly, a small boy at her side and a baby at her hip. Ruku feels shame that she has arrived empty-handed. Ammu does not smile and tells them Murugan left her over two years before.

Ruku realizes they have come far for nothing; they cannot stay here as Ammu hardly has enough to feed herself and the children. Ammu tells them it is no use looking for Murugan as he has left the city. She goes to work and tells Ruku and Nathan they can stay until she returns for lunch. Ruku offers to take the baby; Ammu reminds her the baby is not her grandchild (the older boy is) - she has had to do what she had to in order to survive.

When Ammu returns for lunch, Ruku senses she wants them gone as quickly as possible. Ammu tells them Murugan left because of women and gambling. Her tone changes and becomes softer when she asks where Ruku and Nathan will go now, but she makes it clear they cannot stay with her. Ruku pities this girl, hardened by misfortune and abandoned by her son, but they must go. Nathan says they plan to return to the village to Selvam and Ira and so they leave.

On the way out, Ruku and Nathan are yelled at by a servant for using the front gate - their appearance is like that of beggars and they must not be seen there. Sadly, Nathan tells him they will remember for next time although they donít intend to be back.


Once again Ruku and Nathan are met with disappointment. Their son has abandoned his wife and shamed his parents with his behavior. The encounter they have with Ammu is doubly uncomfortable. She feels an obligation to her husbandís parents, bad husband that he is, and they feel a responsibility to the woman their son abandoned and her children. Ammu makes it clear through her tone and looks that she has no intention of having them stay. Ruku wishes she could help her as well. Both sides know that their mutual pity can help neither.

Ruku must see parallels between Ammuís situation and that of her daughter Ira. Both have children out of wedlock but Ira has been fortunate in having the support of her family. Ammu is alone in the world and despite her slight frame and girlish appearance is hardened beyond her years. Ruku is finding life in the city to be more cruel than that in the village she left behind.

Their search for Murugan ended, Ruku and Nathan are left with little choice. If they stay in the city they will become beggars out of necessity. If they return to the village, they will at least have the support of their remaining children and the familiar comforts of home. The city has proven too alien and unwelcoming for them to stay.

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