Nectar in a Sieve
How we cite our quotes:
"At least it stood until the worst was over," said Kali to me, "and by God’s grace we were all spared." She looked worn out; in the many years I had known her I had never seen her so deflated. She had come to ask for some palm leaves to thatch the new hut her husband was building; but I could only point to the blackened tree, its head bitten off and hanging by a few fibres from the withered stump.
"We must thatch our roof before the night," I said. "The rains may come again. We need rice too." (7.12)
Usually, suffering inspires empathy and sympathy from others. In this situation, though, everyone is suffering, and it seems no one has anything to share or give each other. Ruku deals with this delicate situation in a rather matter-of-fact way by denying help to her friend. It might seem a little harsh to us, but in desperate times, everyone’s pretty much on his own. It’s a bit jarring, and it makes us think that when Ruku’s family falls on hard times, no one will be there to help them. Still, Ruku expects to be treated that way, so maybe it’s not a big deal when she treats others that way.
"Times are better, times are better," he shouts. "Times will not be better for many months. Meanwhile you will suffer and die, you meek, suffering fools. Why do you keep this ghastly silence? Why do you not demand—cry out for help—do something?" (7.44)
For Kenny, the solution to suffering is to cry out. He thinks the people don’t cry out because they somehow think the suffering is noble. What he does not realize is that sometimes when you cry out, there’s no one there to help or listen. To Kenny, something must be done about suffering. To Ruku, it’s all well and good that something should be done, but that doesn’t mean anything will, be done. She reasons that it is best to grin and bear one’s burden, rather than be disappointed when no help arrives.
How heartless are the young! One would have thought from his words we had purposefully starved him, when in fact of what there was he always got the biggest share after my husband.
"So," I said, "we do not do enough for you. These are fine words from an eldest son. They do not make good hearing."
"You do everything you can," he said. "It is not enough. I am tired of hunger and I am tired of seeing my brothers hungry. There is never enough, especially since Ira came to live with us." (9.22)
Rukmani knows that she’s been trying her best, and that her best is not enough. Still, she resents this fact being pointed out. To her, suffering is an opportunity for everyone to put their lot in together, and really get through it as a group. Arjun has less romantic notions about suffering – he’s hungry, and while his mom might get an "A" for effort, that’s not filling his empty belly. He, like Kenny, thinks there are ways to get around suffering instead of accepting it nobly.