Part One, Chapter 1: Summary and Analysis

New Characters
Rukmani: A Hindu woman who lives as a tenant farmer outside a small village in India and is the first-person narrator of this story.

Nathan: A tenant farmer and Rukmani’s husband.

Hanuman: Owner of the general shop in the village.

Kali: Rukmani’s neighbor, a woman who is prone to gossip but who has a good and helpful nature.

Janaki: Another neighbor woman who is the wife of a shopkeeper.

Kunthi: A young neighbor woman who takes a disliking to Rukmani.

Nectar in a Sieve opens with an old woman, Rukmani, who lives in a small town with her sons and daughter, recalling her life. In her younger years, she lived with her husband and children on a paddy field on the outskirts of the village. Her husband is now dead. Rukmani begins to tell the story of her life, starting with the arrangement of her marriage. She was the youngest of four daughters; her three older sisters were married off before she was, leaving her with no dowry. Her parents had no choice but to marry her, at the age of twelve, to a poor tenant farmer—that is, a farmer who did not own his land. It is a source of shame for her and her family because the tenant farmer is of a lower social status than her family.

Rukmani’s new husband, Nathan, brings her to their new home, which is a two-room mud hut with palm leaves for a roof. It stands at the edge of the paddy field that Nathan tends. Rukmani views it with private disdain because she is used to better living. She is despondent at having to leave her family behind and move into a poor farmer’s unfurnished home; but Nathan tries to gently comfort her. Later, a neighbor will tell her that Nathan had built the house especially for her, and she will feel both gratitude towards him and shame for her initial snobbery.

A week after moving in, Rukmani meets her new neighbors at the stream where the clothes washing in done: Kali, a gossipy but good-natured woman; Janaki, the wife of a shopkeeper; and Kunthi, who regards Rukmani with a coolness that Rukmani does not understand. Eventually, Rukmani becomes...

(The entire section is 892 words.)