Nectar in a Sieve
Foreignness and 'The Other' Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
"Yet our priests fast, and inflict on themselves severe punishments, and we are taught to bear our sorrows in silence, and all this is so that the soul may be cleansed."
He struck his forehead. "My God!" he cried. "I do not understand you. I never will. Go before I am too entangled in your philosophies." (19.39)
There’s a tension here: Kenny might not understand the foreign religious principles of Hinduism, or he might understand them and still disagrees with them. Here, we see that he avoids delving too deeply into the issue. Instead of exploring what Ruku believes and why, he’d rather dismiss her whole belief system as foreign. This is a glimpse of Kenny as convinced by his beliefs, and maybe lacking the interest, or the energy, to challenge them. He doesn’t understand the ways of other people, but he has his own understanding of how they need help, and how he can help them. We’ve got to wonder if it is right for him to impose his values on people, decide what they should want and give it to them? Is that really helpful?
Apart from this he burnt easily, even an hour or so in the sun would bring up red, scaly patches about the neck and forehead and make him fretful, whereas my children had grown up in the open and thrived on it. (20.22)
Sacrabani is foreign to Ruku because he looks different from other children. In Ruku’s mind, he already carries the shameful mark of being an illegitimate child – his albino deformity is just the icing on the cake. For Ruku, it’s almost as if his physical strangeness is an appropriate reflection of the moral strangeness under which he was conceived.
Each night was a struggle, more fierce now that we were daily engaged in it. I saw, night after night, what I had not observed before: the lame with their crutches knocked away from them so that they fell and were unable to rise; the feeble separated from their supporters so that their numbers were halved. (27.8)
The city is foreign to Nathan and Ruku geographically, environmentally, in terms of customs. But its most glaring foreignness comes from the way it transforms people into creatures that are entirely different from people Nathan and Ruku have encountered before. Humanity as Nathan and Ruku have known it, is altered. The natural setting they once lived in fostered a natural relationship between people. In the city, people are foreign to each other, but they’re also entirely foreign to human kindness. It’s like they’re living in an altered landscape, where the rules of humanity have changed.