The title of the novel is taken from the 1825 poem Work Without Hope, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. An excerpt from the poem is the epigraph of the novel:
- Work without hope draws nectar in a sieve,
- And hope without an object cannot live.
In the novel, Rukmani comments, "Change I had known before, and it had been gradual. But the change that now came into my life, into all our lives, blasting its way into our village, seemed wrought in the twinkling of an eye."