Living in the pollution capital of the world rain is always a welcome relief, irrespective of the time of the year. It cleans our air and offers us NCR-Delhiwallas relatively clearer skies and somewhat cleaner air to breath.
Last night, sitting in my comfortable chair, as I heard the sound of falling rain, the feeling wasn’t of relief. The clouds have been overhead for a while, and had drizzled briefly for a few seconds already, but it hadn’t poured. But this was the sound of them coming down with vigour. 5-10 minutes of rain, not too long to make much impact in the life of the city dwellers, but long enough to put the life of farmers camping at borders difficult, put it out of what little order they have managed to provide themselves in these camps of resistance.
It was my third semester at college, and I was doing Indian Writing in English as part of humanities courses. For the final evaluation we were required to read, review and present a book of our choice. Browsing through the shelves of hostel library I found a few books by Indian authors. Even with a very limited knowledge and understanding of literature at the time, after reading Kamala Markandaya’s ‘Nectar in a Sieve,’ I knew that both the author and the book were special. The smile on the course instructor’s face as I put the title slide on the glass projector was an affirmation of the same.
Nectar in a Sieve is a story of an Indian peasant and her struggles. It is the story of Rukmini and her family, living from one challenge to another, their life a daily struggle as they till the land to make ends meet. Natural disasters, floods one year, drought a few years later test them, death of children, theft of what little possessions they have, eviction from land, a long journey to city, back breaking work at a brick factory, death of her husband, a long lonely march back to the village hut she had left behind, Rukmini faces each new adversity with high spirits and hope.
As the presentation came to a close and I had answered the few questions that came my way from the class the instructor asked one last question. ‘Explain the title of the book, why is it called nectar in a sieve?’
‘Nectar is the drink of gods. Nectar in a sieve – an attempt to purify what is the purest of the pure. The story highlights how nature puts hardships on those whose lives are the hardest of all to start with. It is like nature testing these humans who are the most tested in the society.’
As the rain came down, the tractor-trolley camps came to mind, the images of them trying to keep themselves and their goods dry from the rain a few weeks back came to mind and Kamala Markandaya’s immortal title came to mind. Nectar in a Sieve.