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Nectar in a Sieve

Nectar in a Sieve


by Kamala Markandaya

Kenny Timeline and Summary

  • Kenny enters the story for the first time when he aids Rukmani’s dying mother.
  • Kenny and Rukmani’s mother seem to have an understanding, and she passes in peace under his care.
  • Kenny notes that there is something sad in Ruku’s face, and asks what it is.
  • Upon hearing of Ruku’s problems with fertility, Kenny says that he can make no promises, but might be able to help a little.
  • Kenny notes that Rukmani seems frightened, and he insists that he won’t harm her.
  • Ultimately Kenny helps Rukmani.
  • One day Kenny runs into Rukmani in her field. He chastises her for collecting dung when he runs into her in the fields one day. He points out that the fields need the fertilizer, but he can offer no alternative for what Rukmani’s family might use as fuel and sealant in their house.
  • Kenny joins Rukmani’s family for their midday meal. Though it’s clear Kenny is not used to customs like sitting on the floor, he does his best.
  • He praises Rukmani and Nathan for their home and children.
  • Gradually, Kenny becomes a friend to the family. He brings little gifts and treats for the children, who are particularly fond of him. When Kenny learns that things are getting harder for Ruku’s family, he brings what he can, sometimes even milk for the baby.
  • Kenny is on the road, where Nathan and Rukmani run into him on their return from their meager rice-buying expedition. Kenny rants and concludes that there is nothing in this country. He curses them for their meekness and wails that there is nothing in this country.
  • Kenny is stressed out after long days working at the tannery clinic.
  • Still, he pays attention to Rukmani when she finally catches up with him after a long day of work. He chides her for her foolishness when he learns she’s still keeping her visits secret from her husband.
  • Kenny promises to try to help Rukmani’s daughter, Ira, though he stresses he can’t guarantee anything.
  • Kenny brings news that Murugan is doing well at his new job in the city (a job he got from Kenny’s recommendation).
  • At one point in the novel, Kenny is a bit taken aback by Rukmani’s decision to ask him about his own family. On the other hand, he expresses wonder that they’ve known each other this long, and this has only come up now.
  • Kenny says he has a wife and children at home, but that he isn’t bound by them.
  • Still, he says he can only handle this country a little at a time, so he must occasionally leave.
  • Kenny then closes up, saying he only admitted about his personal background in a moment of lunacy. He firmly makes Ruku promise never to repeat what he’s said, and then he slips off.
  • The next time Rukmani and Kenny meet in the village, Kenny greets her with his usual strange greeting, not quite friendly, but not hostile.
  • Kenny asks after Ruku’s family, and then coolly reveals that his wife has left him and his sons have been taught to forget him.
  • He adds that Rukmani could never understand his situation. He does responds with some admiration, however, when Rukmani points out that her ways and beliefs are not inferior, just different.
  • Kenny then admits that he doesn’t really know what country is his home anymore.
  • Kenny asks after Ira, and is not surprised that she turned to prostitution; he has seen it happen to other destitute women. Kenny assures Rukmani that once Ira’s baby is born, her reputation won’t matter.
  • He chides her for caring what other people think and notes that this foolish vanity is a problem everywhere in the world.
  • Kenny shows Rukmani the plans for the new hospital and explains that he’s been collecting funds here in India and abroad as well.
  • He reiterates his belief that people need only to cry out for help in order to get it. He becomes irate at Ruku, knowing that she believes suffering is about enduring and spiritual cleansing.
  • Instead of trying to reason with her, Kenny admits he’ll never understand the people around him and the way they think.
  • Kenny still travels to raise funds to build the hospital. He explains to Ruku that he’ll make this project work.
  • Kenny hires Rukmani’s son, Selvam and begins paying him a small wage for his work.
  • When Ruku asks Kenny how he’ll possibly afford to pay a full staff one day, Kenny insists he’ll find the financial means.
  • Kenny tends to Nathan and tells Ruku that it’s clear the old man worries too much about his family.
  • Kenny has no choice but to understand that they’re in a difficult position, as Nathan is really the only breadwinner for the family.
  • Kenny asks whether any of Ruku’s sons could contribute, before it becomes clear to him instantly that he has taken her last hope from her, by taking her son Selvam away from the land. He covers his face with his hands and is clearly pained.
  • Kenny asks whether Ruku ever makes significant plans for the future, and he seems to accept the obvious fact that Ruku never does.
  • Kenny leaves abruptly after Ruku says they are all in God’s hands.