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Nectar in a Sieve | Study Guide

Kamala Markandaya

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Nectar in a Sieve | Part 1, Chapter 21 | Summary



The family plods along for seven years as they wait for construction to be completed on the hospital. Setbacks plague the project, stalling progress at every turn. Kennington frequently runs out of money and must return to his homeland to ask donors for more. During this time Old Granny dies from starvation. Rukmani feels certain the new hospital doctors would have saved her if the hospital had been completed on time. Selvam begins his training with Kenny, and, after two years he begins taking medical cases on his own.


Once again Kenny acts as the family's benefactor by securing a training position for Selvam. Selvam's exit from the family reiterates the deterioration of traditional values—sons taking over their fathers' positions—and highlights how Nathan's job cannot provide a future for his family. Selvam, like his older brothers, recognizes the injustice of tenant farming, seizing the opportunity for a better life when it arrives.

Now that she has suffered many losses, Rukmani begins to accept change. Unlike with Arjun and Thambi, Rukmani does not try to persuade Selvam to take over Nathan's land. Whereas she previously saw all Western influence as abhorrent to her traditions, she now sees value in Western medicine. She wonders whether doctors might have saved Old Granny, thereby wondering whether Western culture can benefit the East. Interestingly, this is the first time Rukmani's character considers the benefits of Western medicine despite secretly using it to help herself and her daughter conceive.

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