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Tradition vs. Modernity, Amy Kramer

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Tradition vs. Modernity, Amy Kramer

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  • May 10, 2005
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England and India never did understand one another. (Prasad 37) Undilute East had always been too much for the West; and soulful East always came lap-dog fashion to the West, mutually asking to be not too little and not too much, but just right. (Prasad 37)

The struggle of individuals caught between tradition and modernity, or between India and the west, is a very common theme in Indian literature. This struggle is evident in Nectar in a Sieve, as Rukmani often finds herself battling between her traditional views and opinions, and the various modern forces that seem to be taking over her life. On the one hand, Rukmani yearns for the traditional way of life she has always known and loved, while at certain times she acknowledges the benefits modernity can bring. In contrast, in The Painter of Signs, Daisy is the symbol of modernity as she does her best to fight against traditional ways of life; however, she is met with opposition by people who adhere to a more traditional lifestyle.

The conflict between tradition and modernity becomes a force in Rukmani's life even when she is a young girl. Rukmani's father is the headman of their village, which gives her family prestige. This prestige allows for Rukmani's elder sisters to have grand weddings and marry fittingly. However, with the abolition of zamindari system, "the headman of the village was no longer of consequence" (Srivastava 9). Because of this, Rukmani was without a dowry, and had to be married off below the family status, to a tenant farmer "who was poor in everything but in love and care for [Rukmani]" (Markandaya 8).

After Rukmani has her first child, a daughter named Irawaddy, she does not conceive again for about seven years. This is tragic because in Indian culture it is very important to have many children, especially sons (Srivastava 14). During this time, Rukmani's mother takes her to a temple and together they pray before the deity "imploring for help" to conceive sons (Markandaya 22). Rukmani's...