What effect does the change in tense in Chapter 15 produce in "Nectar in a Sieve"? What effect does the change in tense produce and why would the author choose to tell this part in present tense?
The bulk of the chapter is told in the past tense, and comes across as an incident being reported or a story being told. Even though Ruku, the narrator, describes the emotions she felt at the death of her son Raja, the account of events that have taken place previously is communicated with an unavoidable sense of detachment. By changing the tense to the present, the author allows the reader to see inside Ruku's mind as she prepares her son's body for cremation. The description becomes extremely personal; the reader is no longer just told what has happened, but can now actually feel the sorrow that was in Ruku's heart, and share in her grief as she says goodbye to her son.
The author's tactic in changing tenses is especially effective in conveying the idea that the authorities who come by a few days later cannot truly understand what Raja's death means to his mother. The authorities are concerned that they might have to face consequences for their part in the boy's demise if his family decides to seek compensation for use of excessive force, but, as Ruku muses, "what compensation is there for death"? There is nothing anyone can do to make up for what has been lost, and this fact creates a "gaping chasm" between the family and the authorities (Chapter 15).