Study Guide

Nectar in a Sieve Chapter 29

By Kamala Markandaya

Chapter 29

  • Rukmani makes an unusual switch from the past tense of the narrative here, and recounts her feelings in the present. She remembers this particular night in painfully meticulous detail, and recounts it to her reader.
  • As the men carried Nathan’s shivering body to the temple, Ruku follows behind and notices that the insistent rain has squelched the flame usually burning on top of the temple. Rukmani remembers crying out repeatedly like a madwoman, "Fire cannot burn in water."
  • The men lay Nathan down on the pavement of the temple, and Rukmani sinks down at his side. Someone brings them a lamp, someone brings them water, and Ruku wipes down Nathan’s mud-caked body. Finally, it’s just Nathan and Ruku alone. The helpers all slip away as they begin to see the inevitable.
  • Nathan lies with his head in Ruku’s lap, and he twitches, muttering about his sons. Ruku evaluates the sad state of his feverish, skinny body. His mind is also beginning to slip into delirium.
  • His senses seem to return to him momentarily at midnight. He reaches out and touches Ruku’s face, wiping away her tears with his hand and telling her, "What has to be, has to be."
  • Rukmani is defiant, and tries to tell Nathan that he’ll get better. But Nathan knows it isn’t true. He tells her not to force him to stay, now that it’s his time. He also tells her not to grieve.
  • Rukmani points out that she doesn’t grieve for him. She fears that she cannot live on after him: he is her love and her life.
  • Nathan tries to comfort her, and says he will live on his children. They share an incredibly poignant moment as Nathan reminds Rukmani that they have been very happy together. With her face laid on his, Rukmani listens to his soft breathing, until he turns his face towards her and dies.