Nectar in a Sieve | Study Guide

Kamala Markandaya

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Nectar in a Sieve | Part 2, Chapter 26 | Summary



The next morning Nathan and Rukmani depart for the collector's house. The guard at the gate initially tries to turn them away, but when they say they are Murugan's parents, he looks at them pityingly before allowing them in. He points to the house where Murugan's wife lives. They approach eagerly but quickly see that their daughter-in-law and her children are starving. The daughter-in-law, Ammu, greets them coldly, informing them Murugan abandoned his family two years earlier and she has no idea where to find him. Cleary Ammu has nothing to offer her in-laws and cannot take them in. Nathan and Rukmani realize they must return to the street and survive on their own.


Ammu provides an interesting foil for Irawaddy. Both girls are abandoned by their husbands, and both birth children out of wedlock. Both do what must be done to survive, without care for tradition or expectation. Yet because Irawaddy has the support of her family, namely Selvam, readers expect she will lead a happy, albeit difficult, life. Ammu, on the other hand, has no one to support her. Like Kunthi, she has turned hard and bitter in the cruel world. Rukmani wishes she had something to offer her daughter-in-law and grandchildren, but she recognizes her presence would only be a burden. Likewise Ammu honors the tradition of respecting her elders despite her hatred for her husband, and she allows her in-laws to rest while she's at work. The reunion is short-lived as both sides have only pity to offer the other, which amounts to nothing in the quest for survival.

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