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There are several traditional values that are handed down to an Indian couple that are expected to be followed and continued. First of all the biggest tradition is that the parents choose whom their children will marry. Upon discussion with another child's parents they choose who is going to get married to one another. In the novel, Rukmani's and Nathan's parents decided they were good for each other so they set them up to get married.
After marriage, more of these values are expected to be carried on is the way the family decisions are made and the ways things are done. The male is known as the authority figure in the family. An Indian woman has to abide be what the men say and basically allow him to run the show. This does not say that he has no responsibilities, because that is wrong be all means. He has a responsibility to support the family and show the children how to work the fields and support the family.
It is essential for a woman to have male children to continue these traditions. The males are needed to work on the farms to help support the family and even more importantly, to maintain and keep the farms up and running. In Rukmani and Nathan's case, Rukmani had a baby girl name Ira. This did not meet the standards of a typical Indian family so she continued to try and have another baby but failed. For the next few years she was unable to have a child. When she realized nothing was working, she secretly went and visited a doctor by the name of Kenny.
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With all of these men in the family it looked like it was going to lead to a very successful family until modernization and industrialization came into town. At this time a Tannery came to the village. This was thought as a good idea for some people in the town but Rukmani and Nathan saw it as a bad thing. Their two oldest sons left the farm to go and work in the Tannery. This caused problems and concerns for the family because they thought that they would be looked down upon by the people in the town for not keeping the typical Indian family traditions up. Rukmani and Nathan did not totally agree with this decision of their children leaving the family farm to go work for a business in town, but it was going to give them the much-needed money that they were not receiving on the farm.
All of this occurred during a time of trouble for this family. The farm was not producing enough crop for all of the family to survive so when the two oldest decided they no longer wanted to live like this it really wasn't argued.
While these two men went to work in the Tannery others were getting jobs elsewhere as well. One of them went to work in a hospital and another went and lived in another household and worked for them as a servant. The youngest male of them all died in the midst of all of this of starvation. The family was in such trouble at this point that trying to continue the traditional values would of lead to complete destruction and death of the family. Instead they realized that they had to do what they had to do to survive and forget about the traditional values. Ira was unable to have any kids so she could not marry. She became a prostitute in order to earn some money to help her survive. This could was considered a disgrace to the family but she saw it as a way of making the needed cash.
As the children departed and went their separate ways Nathan had no one else to work on the farm. As drought came upon the land the family suffered greatly. There wasn't enough rice production to support the family's needs and to pay the landlord. Nathan eventually lost the farm because he couldn't pay the rent. Nathan became very sick and died. He left Rukmani by herself. Rukmani's daughter and a son came back to her to help her survive and live.
Nectar in a Sieve is a novel that describes a woman's struggle to find happiness in a changing India. Social life today is now very different than the traditional life of yesterday. In India the society has tried to adapt to westernization and it has actually hurt their culture. The lives of many farmers were destroyed in this developing time due to inflation, bad weather, and modernization. Many people died or lost their homes. The question is "was it really worth it?" Should they have just stayed with their traditional ways? There are some pros and cons to these questions, but the real answer lies within the people of India.