For a long time, the woman has assumed a secondary role in the first generation of Indian English male writing such as R.K.Narayan, Raja Rao, Mulk Raj Anand. Indeed, R.K.Narayan's heroine, Rosie, in his novel 'The Guide' is viewed only in relation to the main protagonist, Raju and Raju's mother is confined to a very secondary position. It is only through the advent of the rise in fiction by Indian women writers that the woman has been able to assume a major role in the novel. Many of the Indian women novelists focus on women's issues; they have a woman's perspective on the world. This has allowed them to create their own world. It has made it possible for the women writers to set the conditions of existence, free from the direct interference of men. .
Among the different Indian women writers who have made the female character their main preoccupation is Kamala Markandaya. In her novel 'Nectar in a Sieve', the central consciousness is that of a woman. This novel is characterized by a fine feminine sensibility. Kamala Markandaya is an expatriate writer, living in London. Born and educated in India her personality has developed within the Indian cultural ethos. Kamala Markandaya's acquaintance with Indian life is as authentic as her understanding of the Englishman and their character. She spent a few years observing the life of South Indian peasants before marrying an Englishman and settling down in London. Thus, she has an inborn knowledge of Indian culture and society which explains the fact that Markandaya's heroines are well drilled in the tenets of Indian ethos.
Before proceeding to the woman characters in Markandaya's novel 'Nectar in a Sieve', let us define the characteristics of the stereotypical womanhood in Indian culture and tradition and as it has been portrayed in literature over generations. Throughout history, womanhood in all its aspects has been glorified in India. The woman in India has been the subject of reverence and devotion in the form of goddesses such as Sita, Durga or Kali.