Nectar in a Sieve | Study Guide

Kamala Markandaya

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Kamala Markandaya | Biography


Early Life

Born Kamala Purnaiya on June 23, 1924, Indian author Kamala Markandaya spent her early years in Mysore, a southern city in India. She grew up in India's wealthy upper class. Her family was Brahmin, the highest caste (hereditary social class) in Indian society, which allowed Markandaya to pursue her education. At the University of Madras, Markandaya studied history, which balanced her traditional childhood education centered on Hindu language and culture.

Writing Career

While studying history at university and working as a journalist (1940–47), Markandaya dabbled in creative writing, publishing a few short stories in Indian magazines. In 1948, the year after India gained its independence from Britain, Markandaya moved to London to pursue writing full time. There she met her husband, Bertrand Taylor, and gave birth to her only child, a daughter named Kim. Her first novel, Nectar in a Sieve, became an instant bestseller, winning her over $100,000 in prize money. She went on to publish nine other novels: Some Inner Fury (1955), A Silence of Desire (1960), Possession (1963), A Handful of Rice (1966), The Coffer Dams (1969), The Nowhere Man (1972), Two Virgins (1973), The Golden Honeycomb (1977), and Pleasure City (1982).

Death and Legacy

Markandaya shunned the literary spotlight, even adopting the pseudonym Kamala Markandaya to protect her privacy, preferring to let her writing speak for itself. As such little is known about this intensely private writer's personal life. On May 16, 2004, she died of kidney failure in her London home at age 79. Newspaper obituaries around the globe noted how Markandaya carved a space for herself in the Anglo-Indian literary world by offering her impoverished characters sympathy and by honoring traditional Indian culture and values.
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