Kamala Markandaya's Nectar in a Sieve portrays its positive woman characters as ideal sufferers and nurturers. "[T]he cause of her suffering springs mainly from poverty and natural calamity. The women are from the rural sections of society. They are the daughters of the soil and have inherited age-old traditions which they do not question. Their courage lies in meek or at times cheerful way [sic] of facing poverty or calamity" [Meena Shirdwadkar, Image of Woman in the Indo-Anglian Novel (New Delhi: Sterling, 1979), 49].
Rukmani, the main character, and her daughter Ira display suffering hroughout the novel. Rukmani works hard and is devoted to her gentle husband. She endures blow after blow from life: poverty, famine, the divorce of her barren daughter, the deaths of her sons, her daughter's prostitution, and finally her husband's death. When she finds te emotional cener of her life, her relationship with her husband, threatened by the discovery that he fathered another woman's sons, she neither strikes out at him nor crumbles:
Disbelief first; disillusionment; anger, reproach, pain. To find out, after so many years, in such a cruel way. ... He had known her not once but twice; he had gone back to give her a second son. And between, how many times, I thought, bleak of spirit, while her husband in his impotence and I in my innocence did nothing.
. . .At last I made an effort and roused myself...
"It is as you say a long time ago," I said wearily. "That she is evil and powerful I know myself. Let it rest."
She accepts the blow and moves on in life. In addition, when her son Raja is murdered, even her thoughts do not express rebellion. She moves from nu...
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...osites of Kunthi. Their goodness originates in their acceptance of suffering, whereas Kunthi's evil originates in her refusal to sacrifice herself for others. As ideal images, Markandaya's heroines correlate with Shirwadkar's conception of how early Indo-Anglian novels portray women as Sita-like characters. By fulfilling cultural values, however, Rukmani and Ira find in their way of lifenot only suffering but also a sureness and inner peace. Shirwadkar claims that women in later novels lose even the satisfaction of this fulfillment, because they find themselves trapped between the traditional and modern requirements for women. Earlier images of calm, enduring women change to new ones, of frustrated women caught between the Sita-Savitri figure and the modern, Westernised woman.
Markandaya, Kamala. Nectar In A Sieve. New York: Signet Fiction, 1995.
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