Nectar in a Sieve

Selvam Character Analysis

Selvam is Rukmani’s fifth son. Like his older brothers, Selvam elects not to join Nathan on the farm; instead, he becomes Kenny’s apprentice and trains to work in the large hospital that Kenny is building. While his older siblings contribute to the family’s disintegration, Selvam actually helps preserve it; he cares for Irawaddy and Irawaddy’s son, and by the end of the novel he provides for Rukmani as well. Selvam’s example shows how ordinary peasants can move away from traditional poverty without becoming displaced or sacrificing precious family networks.
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Selvam Character Timeline in Nectar in a Sieve

The timeline below shows where the character Selvam appears in Nectar in a Sieve. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1 
Suffering Theme Icon
...Puli’s hands have been destroyed by leprosy, but the local doctor, Kenny, and Rukmani’s son Selvam have prevented the disease from spreading to Puli’s limbs. (full context)
Suffering Theme Icon
Rukmani’s sight is fading, but she can still see the hospital where Selvam and Kenny work together. The hospital has been growing slowly over the year, constructed by... (full context)
Chapter 3
Rural vs. Urban Poverty Theme Icon
Agriculture vs. Education Theme Icon
...and Arjun are fed well during their childhood, but the succeeding sons—Thambi, Murugan, Raja, and Selvam—grow up on small portions. Luckily, Irawaddy is very capable with children and helps Rukmani manage... (full context)
Chapter 5
Women and Sexuality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...always patient with her children and brings sweets when he comes, and even milk for Selvam, which Rukmani normally can’t afford. Rukmani doesn’t understand much about Kenny’s work; she knows that... (full context)
Chapter 10
Women and Sexuality Theme Icon
...to be visible, and her own children are setting off the fireworks they’ve purchased. Only Selvam, the youngest, is wary, telling Rukmani that that he’s afraid. Selvam refuses to come into... (full context)
Chapter 11
Women and Sexuality Theme Icon
...She begins to walk for hours by herself and does her chores in silence. Only Selvam can occasionally coax a smile from her. (full context)
Chapter 12
Suffering Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
One morning, Selvam rushes into the house to announce that drums are beating in town. Rukmani remembers the... (full context)
Chapter 16
Women and Sexuality Theme Icon
Nathan and Selvam carry Irawaddy inside and Rukmani tends to the wounds she has just caused. Seeing long... (full context)
Chapter 19
Family Theme Icon
Agriculture vs. Education Theme Icon
Like his older brothers, Selvam doesn’t take to the land; although he’s hardworking, he’s not a very good farmer. One... (full context)
Suffering Theme Icon
When Rukmani next sees Kenny, she thanks him for helping Selvam and asks about his new project. He shows her blueprints for a hospital much bigger... (full context)
Chapter 20
Family Theme Icon
...abnormal. Kali tactlessly points out his pink eyes and strange appearance. Seeing Irawaddy’s troubled face, Selvam says stoutly that “it is only a question of getting used to” his appearance, and... (full context)
Chapter 21
Suffering Theme Icon
Selvam spends less and less time at home now that he works for Kenny. The hospital... (full context)
Agriculture vs. Education Theme Icon
...is and he explains to her, pleased to know more than she does for once. Selvam has explained this to him, having learned about it himself from Kenny. (full context)
Suffering Theme Icon
Selvam begins training as a doctor with Kenny, and by his second year treats some patients... (full context)
Chapter 22
Family Theme Icon
Selvam and Irawaddy have always been extremely close, always sharing the same opinions even when they... (full context)
Chapter 23
Agriculture vs. Education Theme Icon
...can’t tend to the land alone. Kenny understands that things would have been easier if Selvam remained on the farm, and apologizes for taking him away, but Rukmani says that “Selvam... (full context)
Rural vs. Urban Poverty Theme Icon
Agriculture vs. Education Theme Icon
Selvam takes the news stoically, but soon becomes angry with the landlord. He can’t believe his... (full context)
Family Theme Icon
Reluctantly but genuinely, Selvam offers to return to the land and rent another farm to work with his father.... (full context)
Rural vs. Urban Poverty Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Agriculture vs. Education Theme Icon
Irawaddy decides that she and Sacrabani will stay with Selvam rather than starting a new life elsewhere and being a burden to her parents. Selvam... (full context)
Chapter 24
Women and Sexuality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...hitch a ride with a bullock cart traveling towards the city. After saying goodbye to Selvam and Irawaddy, they depart the village, watching the familiar fields recede. Rukmani leans on Nathan... (full context)
Chapter 30
Suffering Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...the arguments she used, eventually she persuades him to accompany her home, where Kenny and Selvam can treat his leprosy. (full context)
Family Theme Icon
From the hospital building, still unfinished, Selvam rushes out to embrace her. Soon, Irawaddy and Sacrabani join. Rukmani introduces Puli as her... (full context)
Suffering Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Irawaddy takes Puli in her arms, promising him food and a rest. Selvam assures Rukmani that even with his small wages they will manage to survive. He understands... (full context)