Effects of Post-Colonialism in Nectar In a Sieve


This post by Hasanki Kasthuriarachchi discusses about The social realism in post-colonial India. She is an exciting writer now working as a guest writer to Litspring.

While post-colonial Indian writings in English are numerous, Markandaya’s writings keep the head out of the water from among them specifically because of her equilibrium perspective related to Colonial and Post-colonial India. Rather than being fiction, the novel appears as a chronicle of then India. It is as if the author makes the effort to depict the social setup in its most naked form through the characters, incidents, and their behavioral patterns related to aspirations, joys, and tragedies. In a nutshell, the novel depicts the ups and downs of the life of Rukmani the protagonist, the last-born girl of the family who marries beneath her due to the pecuniary that affected her. Even though her low marriage, she could live a serene life with her husband until fate intervenes in an assorted wave of deprivations.

As of the realistic social setup of the novel is concerned, Markandaya renders colonialism as the first and foremost realistic hallmark of the society. Colonialism perches as the milieu of the novel, since the onset of Rukmani’s narration. The British put in place their rule over the Anglo- American sphere, which had a massive impact on almost all aspects of life, for the natives. The abiding impact that colonization had on the hierarchical structure of primeval India, babbles itself when Rukmani explains how she had to marry beneath her since the power of her father as the village headman falls apart and it relinquished to the tax collector appointed by the British.

“Don’t speak like a fool, the headman is no longer of consequence. There is the Collector, who comes to these villages once a year, and to him is the power, and to those he appoints; not to the headman.”

Thus this revelation of delegation the novel provides is of full measure to illustrate how the colonization acts on the lives of rural Indians in a pathetic way influencing them to their fate and pushing them into an ordeal. In the novel, colonialism is visible through the image of a tannery that is built by colonizers if not ‘Town’s people’ in the villagers’ words. The separation of Rukmani and her sons is due to the tannery and its influence on their lives. In fact, the displacement of Nathan and Rukmani is a direct consequence of colonization since the tannery people buy the lands which are more profitable to landlords than tenant farming. There are clear shreds of evidence throughout the novel of how colonization affects cultural erosion which ultimately results in prostitution. The characters Kunthi and Ira are the best exemplars to illustrate the disintegration of Indian ethos being victims of a guest culture. But not only the demerits of colonialism but also the merits are well depicted in the novel. The character of Kennington is a portrayal of how the settlement affects in a way good to the lives of the natives, since the building of a hospital and starting of western medication. Hence, the influence of colonization has both positive and negative aspects. It is apt that Markandaya manages an equipoise of the social reality without being biased.

“Already my children hold their noses when they go by, and all is shouting and disturbance and crowds wherever you go. Even the birds have forgotten to sing, or else their call are lost to us”

“The tannery is boon to us. Have I not said so since it began? We are no longer a village either, but a growing town. Does it not do you good just to think of it?”

“Let her be, said Janaki. She is a trollop, and is anxious only that there should be a supply of men.”

While considering colonization, social transformation is relatively affected by the natives. For instance, the village transforms into a multi-ethnic unit through the settlements of tannery workers. The village is no longer a rural countryside of farming but a commercialized module where the lives are commodified. For instance, some businessmen take the situation to earn profit. Biswas, the businessman is one of the finest paradigms to showcase how society transforms to commercialization.

“ We come for rice, Look here is our money.

Two rupees? How much do you think you can buy with two rupees?

We thought-

Never mind what you thought! Is this not a time of scarcity? Can you buy rice anywhere else? Am I not entitled to charge more for that? Two ollocks I will let you have and that is charity.”

In fact, the transformation of feudalism to commercialization is again visible through the children of Rukmani, Arjun, and Thumbi. They struggle to earn more for their labor. Even though the tannery provides more wage than farming, it is still not comparable to their toiling. Thus the context depicts the transformation of the younger generation to the modern commercial world, unlike the older generation of Rukmani and Nathan. In a way, commercialization grants deep insight to the ignorant villagers, so that they do not remain unknowledgeable for the rest of life.

“More money’, I say ‘what for? Do they not pay you well already?’ ‘What for? One echoes. ‘Why to eat fill, and to marry, and for the sons we shall beget’. And the other says ‘No, it is no enough.”

Moreover, colonialism seriously affects village life so they are put into a more feeble status. Before the interference of colonialism, the villages had a simple lifestyle and the life budget was undemanding. But the commercialism spread through the tannery put the villagers into a situation where they earn more wages than before but they can not afford much from it since they have to face high fundamentals.

“We had to sell our goat, I said. I can no longer afford to buy milk...”

Consequently, it is perceptible that the authoress appraises the benefits and shortcomings of colonization in then India and adheres to a biased perspective in flashing the social realism in her thought-provoking masterpiece.

How would you view the transition of a humble rural village into an industrial town in the novel Nectar in a Sieve. Leave a thoughtful comment for the improvement of the post. If you find this post useful to others, please do share it using the social share buttons below.       

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