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Nectar in a Sieve | Study Guide

Kamala Markandaya

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Nectar in a Sieve | Part 1, Chapter 3 | Summary



For six years Rukmani tries and fails to get pregnant. While visiting her ailing mother, Rukmani meets Kennington, whom everyone refers to as Kenny, a white, Western doctor. Terrified that Irawaddy will be her only child, she turns to Kenny for fertility treatments. The next year she gives birth to her first son, Arjun. Nathan delightedly throws a large celebration to welcome the boy. Rukmani gives birth to four more sons in as many years. With so many mouths to feed, she must start selling vegetables from her garden at the market. At first Rukmani only sells to Old Granny, but when the moneylender Biswas offers her a higher price, she resignedly begins selling to him, too, although she knows Old Granny needs the produce more. The money allows the family to continue eating well and for Rukmani to save a few rupees here and there for Irawaddy's dowry.


The relationship between Kennington and Rukmani showcases the cultural contrast present during British colonialism. Most peasants, like Rukmani and Nathan, rely on traditional cultural practices and believe the gods hold a person's fate in their hands. Kenny, on the other hand, represents Western influence and progress. Rukmani and Kenny will become lifelong friends who continually clash over whether Indian peasants should accept their fate or demand better. Because Hindu culture so highly values marriage and fertility, Rukmani risks visiting a Western doctor for fertility treatments, although she could never tell Nathan and, therefore, admit she has placed her faith in man over God.

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