Study Guide

Nectar in a Sieve Chapter 18

By Kamala Markandaya

Chapter 18

  • Rukmani is coming back from the market one day when Biswas (remember the mean moneylender?) stops her. Rukmani has not done business with Biswas in a long time, as other shopkeepers pay better prices, and she doesn’t have to endure the sly scorn Biswas tends to treat her with.
  • Biswas delivers the news that Kenny has returned. He tries his best to insinuate that Ruku had an affair with Kenny, saying he has heard proof of it from Kunthi. Ruku retorts that the words of a prostitute aren't very trustworthy. Though Rukmani is rankled by Biswas’s malicious suggestion, she calms herself, dismissing him as slippery and worthless.
  • Then, Ruku goes to Kenny, bearing a welcoming garland and a lime for good luck. At Kenny’s cottage Ruku suddenly feels embarrassed about her little gifts. Kenny’s reception is cool, but the two soon fall into easy talk, punctuated with laughter and the occasional dark moment.
  • Rukmani relates the deaths that have come with the hard times, and Kenny informs Ruku that his wife has left him, and his sons have been taught to forget him. Apparently, everyone has troubles. Ruku takes a moment to wrap her mind around how a wife could leave a husband, since her place to be beside him.
  • The two then have a loaded symbolic talk about colonialism: India is Kenny’s home, but not his home at all. Kenny is also confused about which is his country.
  • Talk then turns to Ira, and we get the happy news that she’s pregnant, but doesn’t know who the father is. Kenny is unsurprised by the news of Ira’s chosen career of streetwalking.
  • Rukmani does a veiled and subtle job of defending her daughter’s decision. She implies Ira’s prostitution was only for the purpose of feeding Kuti. Furthermore, the girl was inexperienced in sexual matters, and got pregnant not knowing what she needed to do to guard against it.
  • Kenny is philosophical about the matter: any baby, once it is born, must be loved, no matter what. Kenny insists that Ruku’s shame about what people will say is foolish. On the walk home, Ruku ruminates on what Kenny says, as it is fairly similar to what Nathan thinks. A baby is a baby.