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Nectar in a Sieve

Nectar in a Sieve

by Kamala Markandaya

Foreignness and 'The Other' Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #1

"Why do you not demand—cry out for help—do something? There is nothing in this country, oh God there is nothing!" (7.44)

Kenny seems to think that one only needs to cry out for help in order to receive it. Rukmani, however, knows what it is to struggle for her and her own, and often believes that struggling against the inevitable is futile. Kenny’s declaration that there is nothing in this country amounts to hopelessness; Ruku, by contrast, knows there is nothing in the country for people who are not willing to help themselves. Kenny, ever needing help and trying to help others, is engaged in a project that goes against the many values of his adopted country. His hopelessness is Ruku’s reality. Even if he understands that, he still resents it.

Quote #2

"I waited all day," I gasped. "I must see you. My husband will be back soon and then I cannot come."

His frown deepened. He said coldly, "You people will never learn. It is pitiful to see your foolishness." (11.5)

Kenny judges Ruku’s hesitation to be open with Nathan as "foolishness," and he ties that foolishness into her whole culture with "you people." Cultural sensitivity doesn’t matter at all to him – in his eyes, whether this is about Indian culture or not, it’s stupid. It’s hard to tell whether Kenny’s judgment of Indian culture implicitly assumes that he knows better, or comes from a superior culture.

Quote #3

"What has happened?" we ask with trepidation. They are still our sons, but suddenly they have outgrown us. (12.10)

Rukmani doesn’t understand how the boys could agitate for more money, but it’s interesting that she thinks of it as them having surpassed her and Nathan. She’s basically the opposite of Kenny – her sons are doing something she doesn’t understand, and she assumes it is because they are superior or have some greater understanding than she does, not because they’re being foolish. Rukmani feels like she doesn’t know the boys anymore, and she can’t do anything about it. Her own children are adopting values that are foreign to her tradition, and so the boys have become foreign to her.

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