Nectar in a Sieve – Kamala Markandaya English Literature YouTube Lecture Handouts

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Title: Nectar in a Sieve – Kamala Markandaya

Nectar in a Sieve – Kamala Markandaya - Players (Rukmini, Nathan, Irawaddy)| English Literature

Kamala Markandaya

  • An Indian novelist and journalist
  • One of the most important Indian novelists writing in English
  • The title of the novel ‘Nectar in a sieve’ is taken from the 1825 poem “Work Without Hope” , by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
  • Work without hope draws nectar in a sieve, and hope without an object cannot live.


  • A Silence of Desire
  • Possession; a novel
  • A Handful of Rice
  • The Nowhere Man
  • Two Virgins
  • The Golden Honeycomb
  • Pleasure City
  • Bombay Tiger (Posthumously published.)

Nectar in a Sieve – Characters

  • Rukmini – wife
  • Nathan – husband
  • Irrawaddy,
  • Arjan, Thambi, Murugan, Raja, Selvam and Kutti
  • Kenny - doctor
  • Puli
  • Kali, Janaki, Kunthi - neighbors


  • Rukmani begins to tell her life story
  • Youngest of four daughters.
  • Family marries her to a tenant farmer named Nathan,
  • Rukmani quickly becomes acquainted with her neighbors
  • Rukmani gives birth to a daughter, Irawaddy.
  • Rukmani confesses her fears of infertility to a British doctor named Kenny, who treats her, and Rukmani soon becomes pregnant with a son, Arjan.
  • Gives birth to four more sons — Thambi, Murugan, Raja, and Selvam.
  • Time comes to select a husband for Irawaddy.
  • Five years after Irawaddy՚s wedding, Rukmani is surprised to see her return home with her husband; Irawaddy is barren
  • Arjan and Thambi leave home for good to work on tea plantations in Ceylon, and Murugan leaves to work as a servant in a large city
  • The village men bring Raja՚s dead body home from the village
  • As the days go on, everyone in the family becomes weaker, especially Kuti.
  • Irawaddy as prostitute
  • Kuti dies of malnutrition
  • A street child named Puli directs Rukmani and Nathan to Koil street, where Murugan lives.
  • Over time, Puli attaches himself to the family, guiding them around the city and guarding their store of money
  • Nathan dies
  • Convincing Puli to come with her, Rukmani uses her small savings to pay for the journey home.


Irawaddy works as a

A. Prostitute

B. Teacher

C. Doctor

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