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Themes

Nectar in a Sieve is full of all different kinds of love. Family love, romantic love, love for children, and abstract philosophical love of life and land, are all central to the novel. The ability to endure throughout hardship is one of the most present motifs in the book, and often takes the form of love. Rukmani fears she cannot go on without her love, and when she comes back to her home, she has made peace with herself, likely inspired and comforted by her love for Puli and her children. An interesting note on family love – it’s not a guarantee that love and understanding follow from being related or married in this novel – a lot of the novel is about the genesis of love between people. Nathan and Ruku come to know each other, and Ruku comes to know Puli in a way that shows love is about the growth of relationships.

Questions About Love

  1. What role does love play in arranged marriages? Is the custom of arranged marriages accepted without questioning in the book? Do Ruku and Nathan love each other because they kind of have to?
  2. Does Ruku ever express things that make us certain she loves her children? There’s never an explicit "I love you" moment in the book, though we do see acts of endearment and sacrifice. Does Ruku’s relationship to her children seem to be based on love, or rather on an understanding of mutual familial obligations?
  3. How might one describe the relationship between Ruku and Kenny? Though there is never sexual indiscretion, the two do share a kind of intimacy that even Ruku sometimes finds surprising. Is the relationship between Ruku and Kenny a totally appropriate one? Why or why not?
  4. Why does Ruku come to rely on Puli, in the city and in the village in her later life? Why does she assert that he’s her adopted child? Does Ruku love Puli, and if so, what makes her love him? Is it a two-way thing?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Selvam is the only one in the family who loves Sacrabani immediately and without reservation. Ira cries a lot, and Ruku and Nathan still have their doubts about the odd child. Ultimately, Selvam, who has sacrificed so much for the family and saves them all in the end, is the only character who understands the true meaning of unconditional family love.

Love is one of the most subtle and powerful, forces in the book. It isn’t spoken of explicitly, but it imbues nearly every choice made by the characters we meet. Its quiet presence makes it more powerful than a more concrete force.

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