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Nectar in a Sieve

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Nectar In a Sieveis authored by Kamala Markandaya as he narrates the story of a woman who lives in dire poverty although I appreciate that the setting of the book is in rural India at a time of change. The book gives the specific timing and the place of the story but, there are clues in the setting pointing that the book dwells on contemporary India. There are several controversial issues that are addressed by the main character in the book named Rukmani (shortened as Ruku). In a broad view the book I see it providing an avenue in which religious, cultural, economic, social and political issues are explored in the changing society of India. This is clear as the book was published in 1954 about seven years after India attained her independence from the British Rule.

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What I highly appreciative is that, many Indian traditions were gone together with the colonial rule. Due to the developments which had been brought about by the industrial revolution plenty of young Indians left their traditional roles as a way of participating in the new economy. This is what I see the writer clearly illustrating through the coming of the tannery in Rukmani’s village, which led to its sons leaving the land to work in the tannery. Although the coming of the tannery could have been seen as a form of development to Rukumani’s village, a picture of starvation has been clearly painted, as people cannot feed themselves due to their inability to the unfriendliness nature brought about by the environment.

I also see the writer has clearly showing the tension that exists between the Hindus and Muslims in this book. The rivalry between these two groups continues to be a controversial issue. At around the same time that India gained its independence created which was a new nation at that time hugely populated by Muslims had left India-Pakistan. This made India a Hindu state. But not to being overly critical, I like the fact that the book is illustrating the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, a legendary leader of India’s struggle for freedom. Markandaya discusses the importance of spiritual purity, the importance of freedom, which was among others preached by the legendary Mahatma Gandhi. (Markandaya, 2002).

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From the novel, I pick out the narrator Rukmani, an elderly woman, as she looks back over the events of her life. She gives a clear description of what despair and poverty really means in rural India. She begins by shedding some light to her marriage to a poor man who goes by the name Nathan. Rukmani is ending up getting married to poor Nathan, as she could not raise money for dowry; this is another indication of what poverty stricken life she led. But all in all, Ruku leads a simple farming life and is happy since Nathan loves her. After six years of marriage Ruku has only one daughter and this is yet another problem that she faces. Giving birth to sons in India is a source of pride and due to her inability to get sons Rukmani pays a visit to a white doctor by the name Kenny and after the treatment she gives birth to five sons in the next several years. This makes it even harder for them to put enough food on the table. I see this as an economic problem being highlighted by the writer as portrayed by Rukmani’s family.

I like the fact that, with the construction of a tannery Rukmani’s neighbourhood transforms from a village into a noisy town, which she finds very hard to bear with. But I appreciate that two of Rukmani’s sons are employed in the tannery and this comes as a sign of relief to the family as they now get relative financial stability. However, the success is short lived, as they are later laid down and the family gets back to its old ways. Later on in the book Nathan’s land which he had rented for thirty years, is sold to the tannery and they are forced to relocate to the city where they get refuge in a temple. While staying here they work in a quarry and during this time Nathan dies after ailment only to add to Rukmani’s numerous problems. Towards the end Rukmani goes back to the village in search of a way to manage the hard times.

Thus on reflecting on the novel, I find it bringing out the religious, cultural, economic, social as well as political lessons which are clearly brought out from it. The lessons cannot be overly emphasized and I recommend one to read the novel especially to capture all this changes that have been highlighted in the novel of course even not forgetting the lessons of Mahatma Gandhi the spiritual leader with his spiritual inspirations. In short it is a novel that has captured a lot and I highly recommend it to readers who want an experience so greatly highlighted.

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