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Nectar in Sieve and Suffering

Nectar in a Sieve is a work of literature written in the mid-1900s. This work describes the effect that modernization and industrialization had on the farming families of India. During this time, many traditional values had to be overturned by the people to keep up with the changing times. As a result, many farmers lost their land, and many people died of starvation due to bad harvests and inflating prices on goods. This novel describes explicitly the life of a woman, Rukmani, and how her family was affected and the activities she and her family had to perform in order to survive.

This work is very good in describing the life of a woman at this time and it will make you realize the hardships that these people had. There are several traditional values that are handed down to an Indian couple that are expected to be followed and continued. First of all the biggest tradition is that the parents choose whom their children will marry. Upon discussion with another child’s parents, they choose who is going to get married to one another. In the novel, Rukmani’s and Nathan’s parents decided they were good for each other so they set them up to get married.

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After marriage, more of these values are expected to be carried on in the way the family decisions are made and the ways things are done. The male is known as the authority figure in the family. An Indian woman has to abide by what the men say and basically allow him to run the show. This does not say that he has no responsibilities because that is wrong by all means. He is responsible for supporting the family and showing the children how to work the fields and support the family.

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A woman needs to have male children to continue these traditions. The males are needed to work on the farms to help support the family and, even more importantly, maintain and keep the farms up and running. In Rukmani and Nathan’s case, Rukmani had a baby girl name Ira. This did not meet the standards of a typical Indian family, so she continued to try and have another baby but failed. For the next few years, she was unable to have a child. Finally, when she realized nothing was working, she secretly visited a doctor by the name of Kenny. Kenny did what he had to allow Rukmani to have more children.

When Ira was seven, Rukmani’s first male child was born, Arjun. She continued to have children, all males until she had a total of six. Nathan now had males to help him farm the land and continue these family traditions and values. With all of these men in the family, it looked like it would lead to a very successful family until modernization and industrialization came into town. At this time, a Tannery came to the village. This was thought of as a good idea for some people in the town, but Rukmani and Nathan saw it bad. Their two oldest sons left the farm to go and work in the Tannery.

This caused problems and concerns for the family because they thought that the people would look down upon them for not keeping the typical Indian family traditions up. Rukmani and Nathan disagreed with this decision of their children leaving the family farm to go work for a business in town, but it was going to give them the much-needed money they were not receiving on the farm. All of this occurred during a time of trouble for this family. The farm was not producing enough crops for all of the family to survive, so it wasn’t argued when the two oldest decided they no longer wanted to live like this.

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While these two men went to work in the Tannery, others were getting jobs elsewhere as well. One of them went to work in a hospital, and another went and lived in another household and worked for them as a servant. The youngest male of them all died in the midst of all of this starvation. The family was in such trouble than trying to continue the traditional values would lead to the destruction and death of the family. Instead, they realized that they had to do what they had to do to survive and forget traditional values. Ira was unable to have any kids, so she could not marry. She became a prostitute to earn some money to help her survive. This could be considered a disgrace to the family, but she saw it as a way of making the needed cash.

As the children departed and went their separate ways, Nathan had no one else to work on the farm. As drought came upon the land, the family suffered greatly. There wasn’t enough rice production to support the family’s needs and to pay the landlord. Nathan eventually lost the farm because he couldn’t pay the rent. Nathan became very sick and died. He left Rukmani by herself. Rukmani’s daughter and a son came back to her to help her survive and live.

Nectar in a Sieve is a novel that describes a woman’s struggle to find happiness in a changing India. Social life today is now very different than the traditional life of yesterday. In India, society has tried to adapt to westernization, and it has hurt their culture. The lives of many farmers were destroyed in this developing time due to inflation, lousy weather, and modernization. Many people died or lost their homes. The question is “was it really worth it?” Should they have just stayed with their traditional ways? There are some pros and cons to these questions, but the real answer lies within the people of India.

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Nectar in Sieve and Suffering. (2021, Sep 24). Retrieved August 8, 2022, from