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Quotes

Quote #1

A few days after our conversation the shop finally closed down. Nobody asked: "Where do you go from here?" They did not say, "What is to become of us?" We waited and one day they came to bid us farewell, carrying their possessions, with their children trailing behind, all but the eldest, whom the tannery had claimed. Then they were gone, and the shopkeepers were glad that there was less competition, and the worker who moved into their hut was pleased to have a roof over his head, and we remembered them for a while and then took up our lives again. (8.9)

In order to maintain her own home, Ruku cannot afford to worry about the homes of others. This is an important moment to recognize that the home is a self-contained unit. People don’t compete like they do in the city, but each woman must fend for her home and her home alone.

Quote #2

My husband especially had been looking forward to the day when they would join him in working the land; but Thambi only shook his head. (9.35)

Nathan envisions his sons will continue on the tradition of their agricultural profession. Their rejection of the land is more than a career choice. When they walk away from the family land, they’re walking away from their family and their place in the home. (Ironically, Nathan had wanted sons to work alongside him, and he endures and sacrifices to raise them, only to be deserted by them.)

Quote #3

They spoke soothingly—of how much they would earn, and how one day they would return—as one does to a child; and I listened to them; and it was all a sham, a poor shabby pretence to mask our tortured feelings.

They left at first daylight, each carrying a bundle with food in it, and each before he went kissed Nathan’s feet, then mine, and we laid our hands on them in blessing. I knew we would never see them again. (12.56)

The eldest boys, who had almost specifically been bred to work alongside their father, and keep up the family tradition and home, are the first to leave. Ruku knows she’ll never see them again, but she is silent about their desertion. Ironically, while boys were supposed to stay and keep the family, girls were meant to go off and become part of their husband’s families. While Ruku slowly loses son after son to one thing or another, Ira is the one left behind (with Selvam) to hold together the family.

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