Power is another important force in Nectar in a Sieve. Much of the novel is driven by the fact that the characters are often powerless against external circumstances. They are at the whim of the weather, the tannery, the landowners, and any other number of more powerful forces. However, power is also about the will of an individual. Though Rukmani and Nathan are forced into certain directions by outside power, those forces allow them to develop tremendous personal power. Nathan is buoyed by his convictions, and Rukmani has astonishing endurance and patience. The couple, though limited by external circumstance, has found that they need internal willpower in order to go on. In the landscape of the greater world, but the strength and bravery with which they face that outside world is a testament to their own personal power. They have hope in spite of everything around them, and this hope gives them the power to go on.
The tannery is a powerful force in the village, and is has power over the opportunities and economic mobility of the characters. When the tannery officials come to seek Ruku’s acceptance of their claim that they are not liable for Raja’s death, they are implicitly admitting that they only hold power so long as the people allow them to hold power. This is symbolic of the larger hold of power that Britain and industry had over India – power can only be held unconditionally so long as it is not resisted or questioned.
It is only when characters put aside their considerations of their power relative to each other that genuine loving and kindness can occur (as when Nathan eschews his power as a controlling husband, or Kenny overlooks his higher social position to befriend Ruku’s family).