The novel "Nectar in a Sieve" is a remarkable saga of battling with poverty, hunger, betrayal and death. The life experience of the central character, Rukmani and her journey through the harsh realities are ideally depicted in the novel. The title "Nectar in a sieve" has an allusion to the famous poem by Coleridge "Work without hope". The author although has not referred directly to the poem but the 13-14 lines of the poem "work without hope" ("Work without hope draws nectar in a sieve, and hope without an object cannot live.") finds a divine expression in the novel "Nectar in a sieve". Hope stands as a very important attribute of the lives of the character thus aptly befitting the title.
`Nectar in a sieve` is written by Kamala Markandaya and published by Signet classics on 1st January 2002.
Kamala Purnaiya was born in a small town in Mysore in the year of 1924. Markandaya attended the University of Madras, beginning in 1940, where she studied history. From 1940 to 1947, she worked as a journalist and also published short stories in Indian newspapers. During the war she worked for the army in India and later returned to journalism. She married a journalist colleague Bertrand Taylor who was an Englishman and permanently emigrated to Britain in 1948. As all want fame and success in life, these two came to her life with her first published novel, Nectar In A Sieve in 1954. This book of hers become the Book-of-the-Month Club Main Selection and bestseller in the United States. From 1960s onwards Markandaya`s novels started become popular and it is seen on the shelves of every bookstores throughout America, as well as in every public library. At least twelve Ph.D. Theses have been written in American and British universities analyzing Markandaya`s writings. One of the strength of Markandaya`s writing comes from her sensitive creation of individual characters and her mellifluous and controlled prose style.
`Nectar in a Sieve` is Kamala Markandaya`s first published novel. It is actually the third novel written by her. The book became a best seller around the world and was also translated into seventeen languages. In 1955, the American Library Association named it as a Notable Book. Less than a decade after India won its independence from Britain the novel published in 1954.
This novel `Nectar in a Sieve` by Markandaya is clearly influenced by this event, portraying some of the problems encountered by the Indian people as they dealt with the changing times. Rukmani married Nathan, a tenant farmer whom she had never met, as a child bride. Even though Rukmani was ignorant of the simplest of tasks, Nathan never uttered a single cross word or gave an impatient look. He looked at her as if nobody had discovered her beauty. He never asserted his rights to prohibit her from reading and writing. Though Nathan was illiterate he always shows respect towards her literate wife. Misfortune seemed to have a tight foothold in Rukmani and Nathan. The monsoon flooded the rice paddies where Rukmani worked side by side with Nathan to wrest a living for a household of eight. No sooner had the monsoon tapered off than a drought devastated the harvest. Hope and fear acted like twin forces that tugged at them in one direction and another. Poverty-stricken Rukmani saw her daughter Ira become a prostitute, her 4-year-old son Kuti died from hunger, her teenage son Raja caught stealing and beaten to death, her oldest sons Thambi and Arjun set off to Ceylon to work in a tea plantation. The opening of a tannery ends the last chance of living and changed the village beyond recognition. And yet, Rukmani survived. Ira, who exchanged her body for Kuti`s milk and food, had lost her reason and given up her sanity rather than faced the truth. Far beyond its political context, the novel is appealing to modern readers for its sensitive and moving portrayal of the strength of a woman struggling with forces beyond her control. It is a story about the flexibility of the human spirit and the importance of values.
Published by Signet Classics, the story of `Nectar in a Sieve` by Kamala Markandaya is painfully expressive, tight and articulate. The living conditions, life struggles, poverty, fragility, etc. depicted here are beyond imagination.
Set in some village in India, Kamala Markandaya`s `Nectar in a Sieve` is a gripping story of one tireless woman`s survival of a checked life. The life had no perimeter for misfortune. Readers will find a determined, remarkable fighter in a woman who bears an unfailing faith and drives through secured loud demand that occupies her life.