Nectar in a Sieve
Nectar in a Sieve
by Kamala Markandaya
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Nectar in a Sieve Theme of The Home

The home is a place of stability in this novel. The home represents safety and protection, but it is also the keeper of people’s larger lives. When Rukmani packs up her home to go, she leaves it only physically. Her home lives on in her memory, and it travels with her as she struggles to pray. Ultimately, Nathan and Rukmani dream of returning to their home, and to the memory of the life they once had. Their home is not a place that exists any longer, but it’s a space in memories and emotions that symbolizes their sense of belonging. When Nathan and Rukmani’s sons leave home, they are leaving behind their whole lives. Selvam and Ira, who chose to stay in their village and take back their mother, represent the hope of stability and love. They have become a spiritual home, which is a familiar comfort for a dying old woman.

Questions About The Home

  1. When Rukmani first sees the home Nathan built for her, she nearly cries out in despair. Compare this scene to her reaction when she is forced to leave her modest home at the end of part one of the novel. Is her life proof that one can be worn down to get used to anything, or does her home become something greater than a dwelling because of memory and experience?
  2. Do Arjun and Thambi really think they’ll ever return home? How does Ruku know they won’t? Is the home a safe and comforting space or a confining one? How do the different generations of Ruku’s family view the home differently?
  3. Rukmani and Nathan romanticize their village home once they’re away from it. Is this the foolishness of the "grass is always greener" way of thinking, or have they really realized the value of their hometown, in spite of the financial destitution they know they’ll find there? In the second part of the novel, what is it about their home that Nathan and Rukmani come to value?
  4. One could argue that the family home belongs to Ira first – she’s the first one that is actually born into it. When she is sent back from her husband’s house, she returns to the fold of her family in spite of the shame brought by her albino child born of prostitution. Is Ira really welcome back into her home? Does Rukmani’s treatment of her change, and what does this tell us about Ira’s place in the home?

Chew on This

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

Nathan’s home is the land, while Rukmani’s home is wherever her husband is. Arjun and Thambi could not be at home without financial assurance, and Ira’s home is where she can be accepted with her child. Different characters locate their home differently, as home is not a physical location but a state of mind dictated by comfort.

Home is equally a space of comfort and confinement, depending on whose perspective you’re considering. For example, the only way Kenny can be comfortable is by having no single place of comfort. He is at home in his own displacement.

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