Nectar in a Sieve


Kamala Markandaya

Teachers and parents! Our Teacher Edition on Nectar in a Sieve makes teaching easy.

Nectar in a Sieve: Chapter 29 Summary & Analysis

Even in her old age, Rukmani remembers the following night clearly. She remembers walking down the wet street to the temple, where the flame that usually burns has been put out by the rain. The men from the quarry place Nathan on the floor, and Rukmani sits down beside him, wiping the mud from his body and placing his head in her lap. Nathan is twitching and muttering, calling out for their absent sons. It’s clear that he’s not in his right mind.
The absence of the temple’s usual flame presages bad things to come. Poignantly, Rukmani tries to reproduce the homey routines of cleaning and comforting, even though she’s extremely far from home and the journey has probably caused Nathan’s collapse.
Suffering Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
By midnight, Nathan’s body seems to calm, and he stops shivering. Eventually, he opens his eyes and recognizes Rukmani, telling her not to cry because “what has to be, has to be.” Rukmani won’t accept his acknowledgement of his own death, telling him that he will soon be better.
Although Rukmani often asserts the inevitability of suffering, it’s Nathan who is always truly resigned to it. He represents the complete opposite of Kenny’s views on the subject.
Suffering Theme Icon
Rukmani asks how she will go on without Nathan, but he reminds her that she’s not alone, because he lives on through their children. He urges her to remember all the happy times they have had together, and asks her to rest with him. Rukmani lays down next to him and lets his breath fall on her face. Eventually he gives a long sigh and quietly dies.
Although Nathan’s views sometimes seem simplistic and less nuanced than his wife’s, they allow him to achieve a peaceful death, despite their desperate circumstances, and to comfort Rukmani. During his final moments, he again takes on the role of guide and protector that Rukmani has long filled.
Suffering Theme Icon
Women and Sexuality Theme Icon