Nectar in a Sieve
Man and the Natural World Quotes Page 1
How we cite our quotes:
Nature is like a wild animal that you have trained to work for you. So long as you are vigilant and walk warily with thought and care, so long will it give you its aid; but look away for an instant, be heedless or forgetful, and it has you by the throat. (7.1)
Ruku’s thinking about nature might be a little naïve. Whether she’s looking at Nature or not, it’s going to do what it darn well pleases. Of course she and Nathan have little effect on the land (like, crops will grow where they plant seed) but ultimately nature has the final say.
"Words and words," said Kunthi. "Stupid words. No wonder they call us senseless peasant women; but I am not and never will be. There is no earth in my breeding."
"If there were you would be the better for it," said I wrathfully, "for then your values would be true." (8.1)
Nature is equated with moral goodness in Ruku’s mind. For Kunthi, Nature’s simplicity is reflective of a lack of urban sophistication. Each woman interprets nature differently. Where do these beliefs come from? This is akin to a chicken/egg situation: maybe they get their beliefs from their observations of nature, or maybe they selectively see in nature only what confirms their beliefs.
"Two more mouths to feed," she complained. "Only one of my three sons had the sense to go back. I do not know what is to become of us, for the land cannot sustain us all. So much for reading and writing," she said, accusing me with eye and finger. (12.25)
Kali blames Ruku for her own difficulties: she (Kali) complains that the land can’t sustain her family. It is interesting to note that this would have been true whether or not Ruku had educated her kids. Kali is presenting a false dichotomy, as if the incompatibility of nature and learning is to blame her troubles. (It is actually the tannery, and its refusal to pay properly, that are at fault).