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Working hard and thoroughly planning is a necessary key to accomplishing the goals one will set in life, but what usually happens is that something will go wrong, and it’s usually something out of anyone’s control. Despite how stressful and discouraging it is to see plans and schedules get messed up, the only thing that can be done now is to observe what damage has been done, rearrange, and move forward with a positive attitude. The novel Nectar in a Sieve, by Kamala Markandaya, provides many examples of this. In her story, Markandaya writes ”Nature is like a wild animal that you have trained to work for you. So long as you are vigilant and walk warily with thought and care, so long will it give you its aid; but look away for an instant, be heedless of forgetful, and it has you by the throat” (Markandaya 39). The statement explains how even if Rukmani has control over her life and land at that moment, at any point disaster could strike, so she always feels like she has to be prepared for the worst. Yet even when she secretly saves food, hides rupees, and stores seeds for planting, when something happens that will affect her livelihood, the plans she made tend to not go the way she wants, or at least not for long. However, the great thing about her character is how she’s able to observe the poor situations she’s in and adapt them as part of her everyday life with a hopeful and non-negative attitude. Despite all the struggles she goes through, Rukmani can accept, endure, and deal with each new thing as it comes and doesn’t get too overwhelmed, ultimately making her definition of everyday life continue to change.

To start, in chapter 7, a monsoon harshly strikes the land Rukmani lives upon, and everyone suffers from the lack of preparation due to Ira’s wedding. “Nothing was done to make our hut weatherproof or to secure the land from flooding. That year the monsoon broke early with an evil intensity such as none could remember before” (Markandaya 39). Rukmani had paid no attention to the weather because she believed it would all be under control and there was no need to worry. And so, the monsoon had taken that chance and hit when she least expected it, causing disaster for everyone. Yet even after all the despair this storm has caused, Rukmani still heads out to the markets just days later, hopeful that they can buy food. She realizes quickly that rebuilding what the monsoon has destroyed will take a long time, Rukmani learns to live with what little they have, and she patiently waits for the time when more food will be available. When they finally eat after such a long period of starvation, everyone is content and at peace. Though there are many things to worry about in the future, Rukmani holds onto the content feeling she has at that moment and rests with it. In chapter 13, contrary to the monsoon that brought loads of rain, there was a year that came with hardly any rain at all. This of course brought more hardship among Rukmani and her family. They went into starvation again and had trouble paying rent. Rukmani had to start going elsewhere to get water for her family, and by the time the rain came, it was too late. The starvation was long and painful not only for Rukmani but for everyone else in the village. It came to the point where grass was eaten to temporarily ease the pain of hunger. Markandaya writes, “For hunger is a curious thing: at first it is with you all the time, waking and sleeping and in your dreams, and your belly cries out insistently, and there is a gnawing and a pain as if your very vitals were being devoured, and you must stop it at any cost, and you buy a moment’s respite even when you know and fear the sequel” (Markandaya 86). And with hunger, many people suffered and grew weak, including the people Rukmani loved most.

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Next is how more than weather can have an unexpected change. There are also unexpected changes in the people who surround Rukmani, including herself. Throughout part 1 of the novel, Rukmani’s hatred for Kunthi only grows and grows. It comes when Rukmani has a desire to kill Kunthi. One night, she hears footsteps outside and believes it could only be Kunthi arriving to steal their belongings, or whatever was left of them, so Rukmani runs outside and brutally leashes out an attack, blinded by pure rage. “Then I heard a thin, shrill scream. “Mother! Mother!” Hands were dragging me away. I felt myself pulled and thrown to one side…. ‘Are you out of your mind? Your daughter, you have killed her. Murderess!’” (Markandaya 95). It turned out that she had nearly killed her daughter, Irrawaddy. Rukmani was already very upset over the two previous losses of her two sons Raja and Kuti, and after her murderous attempt, she learns to control her anger. She learns to stop judging people and accept them for who they are, and that shows when she and Nathan meet Puli when they travel to the city after being kicked out of their house. Ruku accepts Puli’s unusual disease and also learns to adapt to life in the city. She and Nathan find work for themselves and seem to have a life going for them. Though it is not one full of fortune, they are happy for what they have left. But once again, when Rukmani least expects it, disaster strikes again. Nathan falls very ill. Rukmani tries to stay hopeful, telling Nathan that he will be okay, but Nathan knows better. “I saw him open his eyes, his hand came to my face, tender and searching, wiping away the unruly tears. ‘You must not cry, dearest. What has to be, has to be.’” (Markandaya 185). Nathan tells Rukmani to accept what is about to come, as she always had. Eventually, Nathan passes, and though Rukmani is in grief, she does what Nathan says and accepts his death, and she moves forward with her life. She returns home to her village and children and the last words in the novel are, “There was a silence, I struggled to say what had to be said. ‘Do not talk about it,’ he said tenderly, ‘unless you must.’ ‘It was a gentle passing,’ I said.’ I will tell you later.’”(Markandaya 186). Rukmani plans to tell her son of Nathan’s death ‘later.’ After that, the readers can assume that life will go on, and all Rukmani and the readers can do now is accept what happened to Nathan and look toward the future.

In conclusion, the novel Nectar in a Sieve shows many different examples of Rukmani’s character and how accepting and enduring she is, even when tragedies like monsoons, droughts, and death strike when she least expects it. She learns to adapt when put in new environments like the city she traveled to when she and Nathan had nowhere else to go. In all the examples given, Rukmani learns to adapt the situations she’s in into her normal life. She makes sacrifices for the wellness of her family, and she stores away valuables as a way of planning for the future, and most of the time, it works in her favor. Despite all the hardships she’s had throughout her life, she’s able to accept and move forward onto what the future has in store for her, ultimately changing her definition of everyday life.

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