Nectar in a Sieve
by Kamala Markandaya
Nectar in a Sieve Foreignness and 'The Other' Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
A strange nature, only partly within my understanding. A man half in shadow, half in light, defying knowledge. (12.83)
The relationship between Kenny and Rukmani is a strange one – Kenny seems to reveal things to Ruku that even he is surprised about. It’s as if talking to her sometimes leads him to conclusions or realizations about himself. We get the sense that it’s not just that Ruku doesn’t understand Kenny; Kenny seems to actually be quite foreign to himself.
…Other farmers and their families, in like plight to ourselves, were also out searching for food; and for every edible plant or root there was a struggle—a desperate competition that made enemies of friends and put an end to humanity. (14.83)
The struggle against starvation has made people remote from their own humanity. Hunger has turned them into people they themselves don’t even recognize, and it’s also made them alien to each other. Their reliance on their natural surroundings has failed them and, ironically, has made them unnatural creatures, foreign to their natural selves.
"You simplify everything, being without understanding. Your views are so limited it is impossible to explain to you."
"Limited, yes," I agreed. "Yet not wholly without understanding. Our ways are not your ways."
"You have sound instincts," he said.
For the first time since I had known him I saw a spark of admiration in his eyes. (18.52)
Ruku reminds Kenny gently that they are not better or worse than each other, but they simply understand things differently. Her humble relativism checks his glib cultural superiority, and he knows it.