Nectar in a Sieve | Study Guide

Kamala Markandaya

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Nectar in a Sieve | Part 2, Chapter 29 | Summary



The workers lay Nathan's body on the temple floor. Someone brings an oil lamp. Rukmani sits by his side as he grows gradually weaker. He whispers, "Have we not been happy together?" and she responds, "Always my dearest, always." Then he dies.


In this heartbreaking scene, Markandaya sends her message about the meaning of life to readers: happiness. Nathan and Rukmani have suffered more than most Western readers could dream of, yet on Nathan's deathbed they recount their lives with happiness. Western readers are trained to root for the underdog. Because Nathan has worked so hard and sacrificed so much, readers want him to overcome the obstacles in his life and find happiness. Markandaya flips this expectation by asserting that happiness was there all along—the meaning of life is not to search for happiness, but to appreciate life's small joys. Put another way, the meaning of life is to enjoy the nectar before it disappears in the sieve.

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