Academic | Essay Contest
Globalization, or the increasing political, social, and economic integration of the world, is currently one of the most powerful socioeconomic forces in existence. It affects everything from the rise and fall of governments to the price of food at your favorite restaurant. Like most trends, it has both benefits and drawbacks, some of which are not readily apparent. Nectar in a Sieve portrays some of the effects globalization can have on a society by showing how it changes the lives of the characters in the book.
One of the main effects of globalization is the rapid urbanization of areas suitable for the manufacture or trade of specific goods. Nectar in a Sieve shows some of the ramifications of this on a local level when a large scale tannery is built near the main character's village. This, in turn, creates job opportunities for people to work in the factory. However, because most of the villagers prefer farming to working in a factory, the tannery owners are forced to hire workers from outside the village. These outside workers move into the village, creating a large population influx. Since these workers also need food, clothing, and consumer goods, demand for these products rises. However, the methods for creating these products are not improved. As a result, the demand for these products exceeds their supply. This causes their prices to rise. While the factory workers are able to weather this price increase fairly well thanks to their regular salaries, the agrarian villagers are not able to adjust as well. The reason for this is that the sudden influx of people with a steady supply of cash to spend has caused inflation (when an increase in the supply of money in a given area causes the value of that currency to decrease). Because farmers live chiefly on money saved from previous harvests, inflation is very hurtful to them because it lowers the value of the money they had saved. Rukmani phrases this as, "Our money buys less and less."
The example of the tannery illustrates some of the issues raised by globalization. Chief among these is the trade off between the benefits and detriments. Some of the effects of the tannery are very good. For example, it creates many new jobs with stable salaries, while simultaneously encouraging the formation of new businesses to meet the needs of the new population. On the other hand, it has an undeniable dark side. The tannery brings with it higher prices on most goods, inflation, and all the problems associated with urbanization such as increased crime and pollution.
Obviously one would like to determine how to maximize the benefits of globalization while minimizing its problems. However, in practice this is very difficult to do for a host of reasons. Nectar in a Sieve sheds light on some of these. The novel reveals that native culture is one. Those who are most hurt by globalization are unwilling to ask for help, instead suffering (and dying) in silence. Kenny is repeatedly frustrated by this willingness to endure severe hardship instead of appealing for aid, as shown by his quote, "Why do you keep this ghastly silence? Why do you not demand cry out for help do something?" This tendency toward resigned acceptance is very problematic because it hides some of the problems caused by globalization.
However, there are larger problems beyond a simple reluctance to complain. One of the most difficult of these is the fact that there are simply not enough natural or societal resources to meet the needs of everyone, even if all were crying out at full volume. A chilling example of this is provided by a discussion the narrator and her husband have about the hospital Kenny is building. The narrator tells her husband that, had Kenny's hospital been ready in time, Old Granny (a friend of the narrator who has just died of old age and starvation) could have gone to it and survived. Her husband replies, "I tell you a hospital is only for the sick. There is nowhere for the old." Later the narrator remarks to herself that not even one tenth of those in dire need of medical care could be treated in the hospital; there is just not enough room or resources.
These remarks illustrate the enormity of the problems those seeking to help the poor face. To adequately care for the village's sick, at least ten more hospitals would have to be built. And then, of course, there would have to be as many or more soup kitchens in the village to cope with the periodic food shortages, as well as many other buildings for equally necessary tasks. And all of this would alleviate the suffering of only one medium sized town in India.
While the solutions will be neither quick nor easy, these problems must be confronted. However, to successfully solve a problem you must first understand both its nature and magnitude. This is the value of Nectar in a Sieve. This book sheds light on many of the economic problems attendant to globalization and, in doing so, brings the reader one step closer to helping solve them.