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Nectar in a Sieve

Nectar in a Sieve


by Kamala Markandaya

Analysis: Writing Style

Simple, Subtle, Honest, Earnest

Rukmani’s narrative is presented in a matter-of-fact style. She doesn’t abstract or intellectualize her circumstances. Often she gives the reader a "this happened, then this, then this" account.

However, what makes the text interesting are the occasional dreamlike pauses or asides from the narrative that give us a peek into Rukmani’s actual feelings. When Rukmani talks of her wedding night, she does it with reference to the many examples of romantic nights that she and Nathan shared. This is a subtle hint that her arranged marriage has produced genuine love.

We get a similar window into Rukmani’s thoughts when she buys the cart for Puli. Initially she resists making the expensive purchase, but she relents when she remembers that no matter what else, Puli is still a child. She then buys a cart for her grandson Sacrabani. Though she’s described Sacrabani as a strange child, this gesture clues in the reader on the idea that Ruku has come to similar conclusions about Puli and Sacrabani. Without a specific word about her decision, Rukmani communicates that she had has some insensitive feelings, but that she’s gotten over them by thinking more broadly.

Rukmani is open about her failings – her petty and selfish thoughts are as available to us as her lofty and noble ones. For example, Ruku admits that when Selvam is quiet as he hears about the land being sold, she immediately thinks he is selfish and doesn’t care about the family’s situation. This thought is pretty harsh, especially after Selvam has been so good to the family. Ruku puts it out there, and then deals with it immediately, chiding herself for having thought it. Also, she says she can’t help Janaki when Janaki’s family is forced to leave town, and she admits that she can’t afford to think about where they’ll go. We excuse these seemingly mean-spirited thoughts, when Ruku thinks fondly of Janaki again during the joyous celebration of Deepavali.

Ruku is honest with us about her limitations. We see through her sincere and open prose that she is a good woman, who is trying hard to be a better person. For her honesty, we trust her. The private details, misgivings, failings, and joys that she shares openly only inspire us to believe that she’s earnest of feeling and spirit.

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