Study Guide

Nectar in a Sieve Chapter 11

By Kamala Markandaya

Chapter 11

  • Nathan leaves the village to attend a male relative’s funeral, and Rukmani finally gets the chance to seek fertility treatment for Ira. (Incidentally, we learn she has still not told her husband about Kenny’s help.) Rukmani waits all day to see Kenny, and when she finally catches up with him, he is exasperated by the continued helplessness of the people around him.
  • Still, he and Rukmani have their usual exchange, warm, but with an edge. Kenny says he will try and help Ira, but makes no promises. As Ruku is leaving Kenny, she hears someone from the shadows whisper her name.
  • To her surprise, she finds Kunthi, who taunts Rukmani cruelly about her whereabouts. She suggests that Rukmani is a passionate woman and implies that she has been unfaithful to Nathan. When Kunthi hints that she might confess all to Nathan, Ruku loses control of herself, and claws at her neighbor.
  • In the scramble, Kunthi’s sari slips from her body, and Rukmani is surprised to find she wears the marks of a prostitute: a low tied sari, and sandalwood paste smeared on her hips and below her breasts.
  • Ruku is shocked, but she warns Kunthi to keep quiet about her night visit to Kenny, threatening that she can make things even worse for Kunthi. Kunthi slyly replies that she now has a powerful secret that could ruin Ruku and her husband. Kunthi then slinks back into the night.
  • Ruku, back in the happy fold of a home, goes to Ira’s husband to see if he’ll take her back now that the infertility problem has been treated. Sadly, he grew tired of waiting and decided to remarry. Meanwhile, Ira has been in terrible spirits all this time; there is no trace of the happy girl she once was. The possibility that her husband might take her back only temporarily lightened her mood.
  • We learn that Ruku is pregnant again. Ira only grows more foreign to her mother as Ruku blossoms in pregnancy. This ironic situation serves as a constant reminder of the one thing Ira cannot have. Ruku finally delivers the baby, and as he is tiny, he gets nicknamed "Kuti." The birth of Kuti brings out Ira’s maternal instincts--she treats him as if he were her own.
  • Ruku is happy for Ira’s maternal transformation, but she is still troubled about Ira’s future. They have no dowry for the girl, and it now common knowledge that she has lost her virginity and cannot conceive.
  • Old Granny is upset about Ira’s situation and tries to the distraught mother. She notes that she herself is an older woman living alone, and that she is doing fine. Ruku is not pleased at the prospect of Ira ending up the same way. Still, Old Granny insists she is fine. Ruku slowly stops grieving about Ira’s future, though it occasionally torments her in her sleep.