Driven By Hunger (Nectar In A Sieve)

Essay, Research Paper

Driven By Hunger

Kamala Markandaya does a remarkable job of illustrating the typical Indian lifestyle and culture in her novel, Nectar in a Sieve. The theme the author illustrates in Nectar in a Sieve is that hunger is a major motivating force in people s lives. This motivation leads people to commit anything, in order to prevent starvation.

Hunger is a familiar word and phase that poverty-stricken families undergo. Everyday is a new struggle to live and go through, searching in need of food. Hunger in the novel is the motivating force that drives many of the characters to endure various acts to acquire food, anywhere from leaving to a new land to prostitution. For example, Rukmani s sons, Arjun and Thambi come together and decide to go to the island of Ceylon, to find work that pays better than the tannery. They are paying well it would be good for us to work again. It is not fitting that men should corrupt themselves in hunger and idleness (71). This conveys that Arjun and Thambi believe that they shouldn t go on, being deprived of various objects, and that they shouldn t go on, living a life of hunger without any money. The wanting of not experiencing hunger and idleness motivates their decision of going to Ceylon.

At this point, Rukmani and her husband Nathan have began the new harvest, but have scarcely any food left for the family. Rukmani divides the remaining food in portions amongst the family, counting each night if the portions are still in tact to eat the next day. Then one night, Rukmani goes out to check on her portions and is startled. I clawed away the earth until I saw the bundle I ran my fingers through the grain: and I knew then there was no more than a handful left- a day s supply, no more (88). Rukmani is dumb-founded realizing the loss of rice. I must know who has done this horrible thing (89). Nathan then confesses, Kunthi took it all, I swear it. She forced me, I did not want you to know (90). What motivates Kunthi to blackmail Nathan for the rice is her desperation for food; to satiate her hunger.

At this point, Irawaddy s husband returns Ira back to her family because it is discovered that Ira is barren. Although her two brothers, Arjun and Thambi have left to Ceylon, Ira s coming back to the family can be portrayed as one more mouth to feed with the meager supply of food for the family. One day, Ira s brother, Raja, goes out as usual, but did not come back. That night at dusk, two men brought his dead body. He had been caught they said; something about money. What had my son to do with money, who had not a pie of his own! (93). Three days later, two men arrived at Rukmani s door. The watchmen were only doing their duty no violence was used, only enough to stop him He was seen in the yard, where he had no business to be and when the chowkidars caught him, they found he had stolen a calfskin (94-95). Raja s motivation was hunger, for he wanted to eat, to satisfy his essential need of food. You cannot blame by son we live from hand to mouth as you can see there is no wealth here, such as your goods might have brought him (95).

Here, Ira realizes how much she and her family are in need of food, after the harvest is still three weeks away, and her family has lost strength due to the scarce amounts of food. Ira s youngest brother, Kuti, is greatly suffering from malnutrition and the lack of food and then all of a sudden Kuti s whimpering began to cease for an unknown reason. It then became clear that the improvement in Kuti was due to Ira s profit from prostitution. With her earnings, Ira was able to buy rice and salt, and milk for Kuti, who was too weak for anything else… I was grateful enough for the food (104). What motivates and leads Ira to face prostitution is to ensure her brother s health by buying him food with the money she earns from prostitution. Ira’s sacrifice for others makes her prostitution therefore compatible with the virtuous ideal. As a result of her motivations, she remains a sympathetic character although she violates traditional mores. Kuti becomes closely attached to Ira but in spite of her efforts to buy him food with money she earns from prostitution, he suffers and dies from malnutrition.

Now most of the characters in the novel struggle for survival, and strive to acquire food, to prevent death from starvation. Old Granny for one is a character that has known Rukmani since her youth. Old Granny sold sacks of nuts and berries, but as money and food became scarce, less and less people had money to buy anything, even food. As Old Granny grew older, she barely sold anything, and no one had any claim on her. And so one day she quietly disappeared she had died of starvation (125). Old Granny was just one more person of which starvation claimed a life.

The theme that Kamala Markandaya illustrates is not influenced by any cultural aspect. Poverty and starvation is a worldwide issue, and approximately two and a half billion people suffer from this. Despite valiant efforts, the family in the novel Nectar in a Sieve failed to extricate itself from abject poverty caused by hardships of nature and economics. This poverty forced the only daughter into prostitution and caused three sons to leave the village to seek employment. With very little to eat, it was a miracle the family remained alive. Their motivating force was to exert all efforts into trying to avoid hunger, but despite their striving, they couldn t escape hunger. In spite of their hardships, the family exhibited love, contentment, and hope that their situation would improve, but this hope never became a reality.



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