Nectar in a Sieve
How we cite our quotes:
The following week I sold almost my whole basket to him, keeping only a little for Old Granny. I did not like selling to him, although he paid me a better price. It was business and nothing else with him, never a word of chaff or a smile—or perhaps it was the flattery I missed—and I would much rather have had it the other way; but there you are, you cannot choose. (3.52)
Ruku is powerless to choose her buyer – this is the nature of business. Regardless of how she feels, she has to go to where she gets the best price. It’s interesting that the money she earns gives her some economic power. Has she has given up personal power in order to earn it?
About this time Arjun was in his early teens. He was tall for his age and older than his years. I had taught him the little I knew of reading and writing; now he could’ve taught me and most other people in the town. (9.19)
Arjun’s education will give him power, but ironically his power will only end up crippling him. His literacy allows him to lead the movement for higher wages at the tannery. His literacy is not persuasive against the tannery because there are many more people to fill the spots left empty by the strike. There are limits to the power of literacy; it cannot always assure one a higher position or greater leverage when dealing with people in power. Ultimately, literacy only gives one power to know how far one could go, but in this case, it does not provide the power to get there.
"I will ask Kenny to help you. White men have power."
"Indeed they have," he said bitterly. "Over men, and events, and especially over women." (9.31)
Ruku’s admission is startling but true. Though they are foreign to this society, white men seem to have greater power than non-white men. Her son resents this (with reference to the tannery), but he also resents the ripple of white power over other aspects of society, especially as white people have changed the social dynamic (with regard to his belief of the rumor of his mother’s infidelity with Kenny). White folks have just waltzed into their society and believed they can do what they want politically, economically, and personally.