Study Guide

Nectar in a Sieve Chapter 8

By Kamala Markandaya

Chapter 8

  • Things are less than ideal with the village neighbors. Kunthi’s two eldest sons have begun working at the tannery, and the woman insists that this business is a great boon.
  • Of course, Rukmani is less happy about the tannery. This shouldn’t surprise us though, because Kunthi and Rukmani are opposites in just about every way. Rukmani is proud to be a woman of the earth, while Kunthi claims she can never be such a simple and natural creature.
  • The other great scandal is that the beautiful Kunthi has been walking the town and attracting the attention of men. Her husband does nothing to rein her in, and she’s quickly walking down the road to harlotry.
  • Janaki has troubles of a different sort. Janaki’s husband’s shop has not been doing well, because it can’t withstand the competition from the big shopkeepers funded by the tannery.
  • Rukmani recounts with some wistfulness the day that Janaki’s family suddenly came to say goodbye, with their meager belongings on their back. Who knows what new life they’ll find. Rukmani, however, has no time to consider such things, and soon enough Janaki and her family are forgotten.
  • We get some more detail about the tannery. Besides white men, the tannery has brought in Muslims, who live in a separate compound. The Muslims' compound is markedly wealthier than the one inhabited by the other villagers.
  • Rukmani notes that the Muslim men are hard workers, but the women are more mysterious creatures. These women employ servants to do their errands outside of the house, and when they travel they do so in the head-to-toe veil of the bourka.
  • Rukmani feels sorry for these women, who are kept shuttered in their houses away from the sunlight and green fields that she so loves. Still, Kali points out, they live lavishly, and without need. Kali’s husband notes that it’s a trade-off,.
  • Rukmani meets a Muslim woman when she (Rukmani) is asked to make a house visit to sell vegetables. In order to see what she is buying, the woman removes her veil.
  • Unlike the other women of the village, this woman is pale and dainty. On the Muslim woman’s hands are rings that could easily feed Ruku’s family for years.
  • Still, Rukmani is disturbed by the quiet sadness that pervades the shuttered house, and never goes there again.