Nectar in a Sieve | Study Guide

Kamala Markandaya

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Nectar in a Sieve | Part 1, Chapter 6 | Summary



When Irawaddy is just past 14 years old, Rukmani realizes she cannot wait any longer to marry off her daughter. She enlists Old Granny to help with the matchmaking. Rukmani has saved a dowry of 100 rupees, which is a small dowry, but Old Granny reassures Rukmani that Irawaddy's beauty will make up for it. It takes only a month to select a suitable match. Irawaddy accepts the choice gracefully, only worried how often she will see her mother since her new husband lives many miles away. The wedding day arrives, and Rukmani walks her daughter through the preparations and traditions. They cannot afford to throw the lavish ceremony they hoped for, but the day passes pleasantly. Rukmani uses most of her food storage to feed guests, and she gives away all the special items she had stashed away for just this occasion.


Rukmani's wedding provides a moment of "nectar" for Rukmani and her family to enjoy, however fleeting their happiness may be. Rukmani has saved and planned for this moment. Despite the fact that the family has been struggling to make ends meet and has only a small dowry—because of Rukmani's scrimping and saving—they manage to secure a "good match." Rukmani uses the resources of her land to ensure guests have a delicious meal, even if they cannot afford every extravagance. Rukmani mourns the passing time—her "pitifully young" daughter has matured enough to be married—yet she enjoys the happy moment of the wedding knowing it will be fleeting. Rukmani, now accustomed to a hand-to-mouth existence, recognizes the rarity of indulgences like wedding feasts, so she ensures her entire family enjoys the moment before it disappears. The wedding scene ends with the happy image of the children, engorged from the feast, sleeping peacefully with candy pieces still sticky in their hands. This moment of blissful excess contrasts with famine in their near future.

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