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Nectar in a Sieve | Study Guide

Kamala Markandaya

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Nectar in a Sieve | Part 1, Chapter 4 | Summary



One day Rukmani's young son, Arjun, rushes home to alert everyone that strange men have arrived in the village and are bringing building supplies with them. Everyone from the village rushes into town to see the group of men laying bricks for a new building. They learn it will be a tannery, for treating animal skins and making leather. Work carries on for a few months, filling the town with workers and their families. The influx of people causes food prices to rise, so, while Rukmani earns more for her vegetables at market, she cannot buy as much with the money. While everyone else delights in the opportunity they hope the changes will bring, Rukmani is wary of it. With all the new men coming and going in the town, Kali advises Nathan and Rukmani to keep an eye on Irawaddy, who, at 13, is maturing and reaching marriageable age.


The tannery represents change and industrialization in the village. It brings jobs and good pay, but also an influx of people the village likely won't be able to support. In many ways the tannery represents British colonialism. Some Indians looked forward to the progress British influence brought into the country, while others worried colonization would erase their cultural heritage. Markandaya contrasts the social changes of the tannery with the more "primitive" tradition of child marriage.

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