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Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya-Online Book Summary


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The money Puli holds continues to grow. Rukuís spirits are high as they return from a profitable day at the quarry. Nathan, who is tired, returns to the temple and Ruku and Puli go to the market for dinner. Ruku decides her good mood deserves a special dinner and she splurges on food at the market.

On the way back to the temple, they pass a hawker selling dum-dum carts. Puli is enchanted and giggles with delight at the toy. He begs Ruku for the money for it. She resists but considers the hard life the boy has and buys it for him. She buys a second, thinking of her little grandson at home and the smile it would bring to his face and Iraís.

Ruku wonders how to explain her foolish spending to her husband but before she can do so he is sick and sinks to the ground. Ruku chides him for working so hard and encourages him to rest.

The next day is raining. Ruku tries to convince Nathan to stay behind as he is clearly not well but he knows it will rain for days and it will mean more time before they can go home. As Nathan predicted, the rain lasts for days - it is the monsoon season. The work is even harder in the rain and Nathanís breathing grows labored. Still, he works on, promising Ruku he will rest when back in the village.

Ruku goes to collect their dayís pay, thoughts of her homecoming whirling in her mind. A clump of people nearby calls to her; Nathan has collapsed and lies motionless in the rain soaked ditch. Sympathetic strangers help carry Nathan back to the temple. Ruku realizes the rain on her face is mingled with tears.


Rukuís splurge at the market shows her joys at the simple things. The light she sees in Puliís eyes as he plays with the dum-dum cart and the joy she imagines in her grandchild are worth the extra money, much like the fireworks at the long-ago Deepavali festival. Ruku knows Puli could earn the money for the toy by begging, but his youthful enthusiasm and her motherly feelings for him win her over.

Her joy from the market is short lived. Nathan has grown ill again. The coming of the monsoon makes matters worse. Despite his wifeís concerns, Nathan insists on working. He knows his end is near and wishes to die at home in his village than in the city beside cold strangers.

It is a cruel twist that Ruku is having thoughts of a happy homecoming with Nathanís long foreshadowed collapse comes. When well-intentioned strangers ask if she has sons, her grief grows as she is reminded that here they are among strangers and not among kin. Once again, fate deals Ruku a heavy blow.



Nathan is carried back to the temple. Ruku remembers the night in a daze. Strangers brought her a lamp and water so she could clean the mud from her dying husband. For most of the night, Nathan talked in a fever, calling for his sons and muttering incoherently. Ruku cradles his head in her lap.

Towards morning, Nathan regains his senses and touches Rukuís face. He tells her she must not mourn his passing as he will live on through their children. He asks her if they were happy together; she says yes. Ruku holds him until he breathes no more.


It is important to remember that Ruku is telling this story as a memory of her life. This most recent event is hardest to relate as she feels it happened in a dream. The final tender moments between husband and wife show their true affection and tenderness they shared. Even at his death, Nathanís wish was for his wifeís happiness; he comforts her by the reminder that their children will carry his memory on.



Ruku is at last able to return to the village and lures Puli with her with the promise she can fix his health. She is greeted by Selvam and Ira and introduces Puli as the son she and Nathan adopted. Of Nathanís death she says only the passing was gentle and she will speak of it later.


The bookís final chapter brings Rukuís story full circle. From the beginning of her story, we know that she was indeed able to provide medical treatment (via Kenny) for Puli. His fingers will not grow back but the disease will take no more of his flesh. We also know that Rukuís final days will be happy ones - she expresses no regrets in her old age. She has faced much hardship, including the death of her beloved husband, and yet she expressed no bitterness or anger. She truly has learned to gather nectar in a sieve.

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