Nectar in a Sieve | Study Guide

Kamala Markandaya

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Nectar in a Sieve | Part 1, Chapter 8 | Summary



Talk returns to the tannery. Rukmani still feels wary of the change, particularly because her friend, Janaki, struggles now that her husband's shop must compete with larger stores. Kunthi supports the tannery because it has given her eldest two sons work, but Janaki suggests Kunthi, whom she calls a "trollop," needs the tannery to ensure a steady stream of male admirers. As the tannery expands, more local businesses fail, and more families are forced to sell their land. A Muslim community moves in, and, though she sells vegetables once to a Muslim woman, Rukmani generally avoids this new population.


The description of the Muslim woman provides one of the only timestamps in the novel. It's most likely that the Muslim woman arrived before India's independence, when Britain divided the land into Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan. Before independence Muslims and Hindus remained segregated, as they are in the village, but peaceful.

This chapter also hints at the different ways characters in the novel survive hardship. Although not stated explicitly, neighbors suggest Kunthi now works as a prostitute. Kunthi lives outside the traditional Hindu support of family and community, therefore relying on herself alone to survive.

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