Nectar in a Sieve is a powerful, moving narrative highlighting the struggles and prosperity of one woman as she strives to hold tightly on to tradition in her rapidly shifting world. Written by Kamala Markedly, the author was raised in a middle class family which gave her many opportunities for travel and a higher education. It Is seen In the first moments of the novel that the author seems thrust herself Into the main character, Raking, who leaves her well educated and wealthy upbringing to become a lowly farmer’s wife.
Markedly writes the accounts of Ragman so invitingly that Nectar In a Sieve reads more Like an autobiographical description of her life rather than a work of fiction. Like many great fiction writers, Markedly uses her book as an art form. Reflecting on the novel, one could compare It to a great artists painting that Is filled with a wide variety of themes, motifs and symbolism that are not always obvious at first glance but are Incredibly rewarding when they are finally recognized. The most significant of the themes poised In the book are those of the importance of family and traditional Indian values.
The roles of mothers. Vies, sons and daughters are enforced and challenged throughout the story. The author also uses strong religious themes while peppering it with ideological encounters with other individuals and outside sources that make the main character both question and embrace her basic principles. The author weaves the story into an inspirational account of an enduring spirit that illustrates the hardships of a traditional Indian family trying to cope with the transformation of their way of life.
She shows how with great effort and hard work person can mold to their new surroundings while still Ewing able to hang on to what they see as the most valuable elements in their lives. The basic family unit seems to be one of the, if not single, strongest theme within the book. Being the youngest child, Raking has always been with her family. From the very first account of her relationship with her own mother, father and brothers we see that she holds family to be foundation of her life.
After she leaves her family to loin her husband on his farm, she is sad but soon she sees him as her family and does what is expected of her as her role of wife. Family is so important to her that hen she has trouble conceiving a child she breaks tradition to see a doctor, a foreigner, to assist her and soon after she gives birth to her daughter, Air. Raking seems quite disappointed by having a daughter as sons are most sought after in their culture. Though family is still most Important to her and her husband, Nathan, and they love their daughter as much as they would a son and raise her to be a proper woman.
As their family grows and sons are born, Ragman and Nathan are proud as the family works together to sow and harvest the rice that gives them their livelihood. They are proud to think that they will be able to carry on as a traditional family unit where their daughter will marry and their boys will take over the family farm and prosper. When her daughter Is married and leaves with her husband to a village many miles away, Raking is not sad as that is what a traditional family is to do with a daughter, to make them into strong wives which Raking and Nathan believe they have done.
Even as their sons leave to work in places they disapprove of, they still love them the same. The bond of family is very strong with these people. However, ten changes unappealing In tenet country soon rennet want napes In tenet family and tradition is broken for more contemporary ideas that challenges even this strong bond of family. The tannery holds an underlying theme of change for the country and traditional values begin to alter almost as soon as it begins operation. People begin to turn away from conventional ideas of wealth to begin forming the idea that money is what gauges their happiness.
Despite the efforts of Raking and Nathan to encourage the tradition of passing the farm to their sons, two of them eave to work at the tannery. And one leaves the village altogether.. However, the first son, Argue, still holds family in high regard and gives the majority of his wages he makes at the tannery to his parents. Argue is also an instigator of idealistic changes as he leads the worker strike at the tannery while his mother tries to reason with him, to instigate the value that he should be happy with what he has.
Their fifth son, Selves, tries his hardest to follow in his role as inheritor of the family farm even though most of his crops die despite his efforts. Raking and Nathan are very proud f him in his efforts and when he is offered employment at the hospital they give encouragement that he will be able to do more important work for his people there than he would be able to if he stayed on the farm. Another change that comes as a shock to their traditional family values is when their daughter is returned to them because is seems that she has inherited her mother’s fertility problems.
Being that children are a prized possession, they understand that a man cannot afford to have a wife that is barren and Air is forced to leave her role as wife and is lost for sometime s she is unable to do what she sees she was born to do. This leads too whole change in ideals for her. The value of unwed sex is questioned within her as hunger becomes a persistent problem for her family. Aria’s values break down to the point where the question is raised: Is the sanctity of ones body worth seeing your family going hungry?
Air seems to think not as she turns to prostitution to feed her youngest brother who is dying of hunger and provide extra money for her parents. These values are challenged once again as Air becomes an unwed mother and to a child tit a birth defect. However the values of family still hold strong as Nathan learns to embrace his grandson and holds a large naming ceremony for him. These values, as most values, are tied to the religious idea of these people and this also a major theme seen throughout the book.
Hinduism is the major form of religion in the novel and it is shown through the up front use of prayer and reference as well as symbolism in the characters and their actions. When Raking leaves her wealthy family to Join Nathan as a farmer it is seen as a spiritual promotion to have the opportunity to leave behind her material belongings and become more in tune to nature and the world around her. As she learns her husband’s trade she becomes fascinated by the creation of life as she watches her plants grow from seeds to life sustaining fruits which foreshadows and reflects the love she has for her children as she watches them grow.
She embraces the mother goddess within herself, instinctively nurturing the life she creates whether it is plant or child. The heavy monsoon, the drought, hunger, the death of the children and the struggles to make ands meet show the over all point of endurance throughout the novel. Endurance during periods of hardship is portrayed as a strong Hindu philosophy. Raking and Nathan tend to see their suffering as a way to become stronger. They endure their narrators Decease teeny Delve teeny will Decode netter Decease AT It .
Even when two of their children die she seems to push past it, almost grateful that it happened as she sees death as an important part of life and hoping her sons will be reborn into a better life for doing good deeds in this one. This philosophy of enduring hardships n your own is challenged most by the foreign doctor, Kenny, who uses his wealth and connections to build a hospital and help the people of the village, especially Raking, even though they do not ask for it. Symbolism is not strictly reserved for religion in the book.
Symbolism can be found in a multitude of other areas as well. Their daughter, Air can almost be seen as a symbolic figure of India itself. She starts off as a very traditional much like the areas of India before colonization. She was an unquestioning child and through the effects of outside influence such as hunger and poverty she is turned non-conventional ways to survive. Much like India did through the outside interference of the British many had to give up traditional ways to keep up with the fast paced changes the colonizers were making.
The title in itself symbolizes the Hindu philosophy of being happy with what you have. Nectar being a naturally sweet and wonderful thing on its own, it is useless trying to run it through a sieve in hopes of making it any better. One has to take what he or she is given and be happy for that. The monsoon is a way of symbolizing the greed that the people of he village are beginning to have. As farmers do not want an excess of water as it kills the crops the people do not need the greed of and excess of money as it can corrupt their morals.
Plants are tied symbolically into the emotions of the characters. Raking tends to reflect the state of her garden. When it is doing well the mood is a happy one and times are good. Oppositely, during the drought she talks of how her garden is withered, dry and devoid of life. Her emotions and thoughts mirror her garden in this way. Kamala Markedly uses Nectar in a Sieve in a way to not only entertain through the use of fiction, which she does very well, but to also reflect and share what she has seen in her travels and personal experiences.
She uses the novel to put herself and others in the minds of the people that she has seen. She perhaps even entertains the idea of what her life could have become if circumstances were different. Her use of language in the book is profoundly eloquent, taking the reader exactly where she wants them to go and makes them see exactly what she wants them to see. Her subtle use of symbolism and motif within the story allows for a peer story in which the reader can develop a more personalized connection with the characters and their situations.
The tones Markedly uses in the book takes the reader on an emotional ride showing how life can take through good and bad times and that one always must stay strong and remember the blessings they are given. The main character reminds us to humble ourselves, ask for help and relay on others. It enforces the notion of being happy with what you have and that if you are happy there is no reason to put your happiness through a sieve.