Nectar in a Sieve
by Kamala Markandaya
Nectar in a Sieve Women and Femininity Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
Nathan at first paid scant attention to her: he had wanted a son to continue his line and walk beside him on the land, not a puling infant who would take with her a dowry and leave nothing but a memory behind; but soon she stopped being a puling infant, and when at the age of ten months she called him "Apa," which means father, he began to take a lively interest in her. (2.49)
As Kenny later reminds Ruku about Ira’s own baby, a child is a child. Al children will no doubt engender love accordingly, regardless of the circumstances of their births. Ruku and Nathan are not excited about having a girl first, but they learn to be excited about Ira being Ira. Nathan is a loving man – he learns to love Ira just the way he learned to love Ruku. He’s not one for big concern about gender roles and expectations; he loves his women in spite of what society says they should do or be.
I did so, and as soon as the door was closed the woman threw off her veil the better to select what she wanted. Her face was very pale, the bones small and fine. Her eyes were pale too, a curious light brown matching her silky hair. She took what she wanted and paid me. Her fingers, fair and slender, were laden with jeweled rings, any one of which would have fed us for a year. She smiled at me as I went out, then quickly lowered the veil again about her face. I never went there again. (8.15)
Rukmani does not feel a connection to this woman, though they are both keepers of their homes. Instead, the woman’s alien culture and lifestyle are more important defining aspects in Ruku’s eyes. She has culture in common with Kali, Janaki and Kunthi, and perhaps this is an important aspect of them being a community of women.
"Neighbors, women… and I a failure, a woman who cannot even bear a child."
All this I had gone through—the torment, the anxiety. Now the whole dreadful story was repeating itself, and it was my daughter this time. (9.16)
It’s interesting that Ruku agrees that a woman’s importance largely rests in her ability to bear a child. Ruku didn’t ever overcome these feelings to find her self-worth as a woman – she got over them by bearing children. She suffers because of Ira’s failure to conceive, and her only solution to Ira is not a philosophical one about a woman’s greater worth. Instead, she’ll seek to fix Ira’s biological problem.