Study Guide

Nectar in a Sieve Chapter 22

By Kamala Markandaya

Chapter 22

  • The family operates in strange ways. Rukmani notes that Ira and Selvam have always been close, and Ira has always treated Selvam more as her own son than just another brother. It seems that as the children have gotten older, they have become distant from their parents, but never from each other. Kali, ever helpful, suggests that it is because the children are better educated than their parents, but it seems to really be something deeper than that.
  • It’s particularly notable that Selvam has always loved Ira’s baby, whom he treats as totally normal. Nonetheless, Rukmani describes how such a charade is doomed to failure. Sacrabani does not play with the other children, because their games are in the sun, which hurts him. He looks strange, his reactions to being outside are pitiable, but he endures the stares of children and adults alike.
  • Finally, one day Sacrabani confronts Ira with the inevitable question about what it means to be a bastard. Ira is blind-sided, she can only imagine how much he knows, or what inspired him to ask this question. She flounders before explaining that bastards are children who are unwanted, and his mother loves him dearly. Still, Ruku notes Ira’s voice is pained, as she tells us Ira had indeed sought an abortion early in her pregnancy.
  • Ira is again discomfited when later, Sacrabani asks if he has a father. Ira is startled, but quickly says of course he has a father, but his father is away, and will visit when he can. Ira delivers the standard "you’ll understand when you’re older," and shoos Sacrabani out to play.
  • Left alone with their daughter, Ruku helpfully offers that she would’ve said Sacrabani’s father was dead, so as to end all the questionings. Nathan is gentler, saying it is for Ira to deal with the matter as she sees fit. Ira is clearly hurt, though, and counters that the boy is only a baby. She thinks he wouldn’t understand such complicated matters as death. It’s clear these questions are being fed to him from the outside.
  • Ira wanders outside of the hut, and they decide it’s best to let her do her own thing for a while. Eventually, though, Nathan goes to his daughter. Moved by his gentleness, it seems Ira is finally comfortable enough to cry. Ruku hears her weep for a long time.