Nectar in a Sieve

by

Kamala Markandaya

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Rukmani Character Analysis

Rukmani is the novel’s protagonist and narrator. She is a peasant farmer, wife, and mother living in rural India. At the age of twelve she marries a poor farmer, Nathan. She soon becomes a mother and faces the daunting task of providing for an increasing number of children, including Irawaddy, Arjun, Thambi, Murugan, Raja, Selvam, Kuti, and the adopted Puli. Rukmani has a practical, humble, and positive disposition; she’s an efficient housekeeper, never hesitates to work hard, and buoys the spirits of her family during hard times. Her greatest delights are her children and her relationship with her kindly husband, for whom she feels unabashed sexual desire. Rukmani’s enjoyment of the simple pleasures of her life is balanced by her total resignation to the calamities that befall her. Even when famine claims her son Kuti, and her son Raja dies during an altercation in the town’s tannery, Rukmani unhesitatingly accepts that such things are a natural part of life and can’t be avoided. This attitude helps her cope with the suffering she experiences, but it also prevents her from acting to improve her lot in life. Rukmani’s sole aspiration is to keep her family together, and in this she fails; by the end of the novel, Nathan has died prematurely, and most of her sons have dispersed to find their fortune elsewhere. However, in her old age Rukmani emerges as contented and wise, grateful to repose among her remaining children and grandchildren after a turbulent life.

Rukmani Quotes in Nectar in a Sieve

The Nectar in a Sieve quotes below are all either spoken by Rukmani or refer to Rukmani. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Suffering Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Signet edition of Nectar in a Sieve published in 2010.
Chapter 1  Quotes

A woman, they say, always remembers her wedding night. Well, maybe they do; but for me there are other nights I prefer to remember, sweeter, fuller, when I went to my husband matured in mind as well as in body, not as a pained and awkward child as I did on that first night.

Related Characters: Rukmani (speaker), Nathan
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:

When the sun shines on you and the fields are green and beautiful to the eye, and your husband sees beauty in you which no one has seen before, and you have a good store of grain laid away for hard times, a roof over you and a sweet stirring in your body, what more can a woman ask for?

Related Characters: Rukmani (speaker), Nathan
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 2 Quotes

I think it cost him a good deal to say what he did, and he never varied his attitude once […] I am sure it could not have been easy for him to see his wife more learned than he himself was, for Nathan could not even write his name; yet not once did he assert his rights and forbid me my pleasure, as lesser men might have done.

Related Characters: Rukmani (speaker), Nathan
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 4 Quotes

“Never, never,” I cried. “They may live on our midst but I can never accept them, for they lay their hands upon us and we are all turned from tilling to barter, and hoard our silver since we cannot spend it, and see our children go without the food that their children gorge […].”

Related Characters: Rukmani (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Tannery
Page Number: 28
Explanation and Analysis:

So they were reconciled and threw the past away with both hands that they might be the readier to grasp the present, while I stood by in pain, envying such easy reconciliation and clutching in my own two hands the memory of the past, and accounting it a treasure.

Related Characters: Rukmani (speaker), Kali, Janaki
Related Symbols: The Tannery
Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

She nodded slightly, making no comment, yet I knew how bruised she must be by the imminent parting. My spirit ached with pity for her, I longed to be able to comfort her, to convince her that in a few months’ time her new home would be the most significant part of her life, the rest only a preparation […] but before this joy must come the stress of parting […].

Related Characters: Rukmani (speaker), Irawaddy
Page Number: 36
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

Nature is like a wild animal that you have trained to work for you. So long as you are vigilant and walk warily with thought and care, so long it will give you its aid; but look away for an instant, be heedless or forgetful, and it has you by the throat.

Related Characters: Rukmani (speaker)
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:

“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? There is nothing in this country, oh God, there is nothing!”

Related Characters: Kenny (speaker), Rukmani
Page Number: 43
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 8 Quotes

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 […] then they were gone, and the shopkeepers were glad that there was less competition […] and we remembered them for a while and then took up our lives again.

Related Characters: Rukmani (speaker), Janaki
Related Symbols: The Tannery
Page Number: 47
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 11 Quotes

None more so than Ira: the transformation in her was as astonishing as it was inexplicable. I had feared she might dislike the child, but now it was as if he were her own. She lost her dreary air, her face became animated, the bloom of youth came back to her.

Related Characters: Rukmani (speaker), Irawaddy, Kuti
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:

It is true, one gets used to anything. I had got used to the noise and smell of the tannery; they no longer affected me. I had seen the slow, calm beauty of our village wilt in the blast from town, and I grieved no more; so now I accepted the future and Ira’s lot in it, and thrust it from me; only sometimes when I was weak, or in sleep while my will lay dormant, I found myself rebellious, protesting, rejecting and no longer calm.

Related Characters: Rukmani (speaker), Irawaddy
Related Symbols: The Tannery
Page Number: 62
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 12 Quotes

I do not know what reply to make—these men are strangers. Nathan says we do not understand, we must not interfere: he takes my hand and draws me away. To his sons he is gentle. Into the calm lake of our lives the first stone has been tossed.

Related Characters: Rukmani (speaker), Nathan, Arjun, Thambi
Related Symbols: The Tannery
Page Number: 64
Explanation and Analysis:

People will never learn! Kenny had said it, and I had not understood, now here were my own sons saying the same thing, and still I did not understand. What was it we had to learn? To fight against tremendous odds? What was the use? One only lost the little one had.

Related Characters: Rukmani (speaker), Arjun, Thambi
Related Symbols: The Tannery
Page Number: 65
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 14 Quotes

It seemed to me that a new peace came to us then, freed at last from the necessity for lies and concealment and deceit, with the fear of betrayal lifted from us, and the power we ourselves had given her finally rested from Kunthi.

Related Characters: Rukmani (speaker), Nathan, Kunthi
Page Number: 85
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 16 Quotes

She was no longer a child, to be cowed or forced into submission, but a grown woman with a definite purpose and an invincible determination […] It was as simple as that we forbade, she insisted, we lost. So we got used to her comings and goings, as we had got used to so much else.

Related Characters: Rukmani (speaker), Irawaddy
Page Number: 99
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 17 Quotes

When Kuti was gone—with a bland indifference that mocked our loss—the abundant grain grew ripe.

Related Characters: Rukmani (speaker), Kuti
Page Number: 101
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 18 Quotes

Have I not so much sense to see that you are not one of us? You live and work here, and there is in your heart solicitude for us and love for our children. But this is not your country and we are not your people.

Related Characters: Rukmani (speaker), Kenny
Page Number: 106
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 19 Quotes

Privately I thought, Well, and what if we gave in to our troubles at every step! We would be pitiable creatures indeed to be so weak, for is not a man’s spirit given to him to rise above his misfortunes? […] What profit to bewail that which has always been and cannot change?

Related Characters: Rukmani (speaker), Kenny
Related Symbols: The Hospital
Page Number: 111
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 23 Quotes

Somehow I had always felt the tannery would eventually be our undoing. I had known it since the day the carts had come with their loads of bricks and noisy dusty men, staining the clear soft greens that had once colored our village and cleaving its cool silences with clamor.

Related Characters: Rukmani (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Tannery
Page Number: 131
Explanation and Analysis:

Tannery or not, the land might have been taken from us. It had never belonged to us, we had never prospered to the extent where we could buy, and Nathan, himself the son of a landless man, had inherited nothing. And whatever extraneous influence the tannery may have exercised, the calamities of the land belong to it alone, born of wind and rain and weather, immensities not to be tempered by man or his creations.

Related Characters: Rukmani (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Tannery
Page Number: 132
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 29 Quotes

“If I grieve,” I said, “it is not for you, but for myself, beloved, for how should I endure to live without you, who are my love and my life?” “You are not alone,” he said. “I live in my children,” and he was silent, and then I heard him murmur my name and bent down.

Related Characters: Rukmani (speaker), Nathan (speaker)
Page Number: 185
Explanation and Analysis:
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Rukmani Character Timeline in Nectar in a Sieve

The timeline below shows where the character Rukmani appears in Nectar in a Sieve. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1 
Family Theme Icon
As an old woman, Rukmani often imagines that her deceased husband, Nathan, appears to her in her sleep, and they... (full context)
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As the sun rises, Rukmani greets her children, especially Puli, whom she has adopted and brought home to her native... (full context)
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Rukmani’s sight is fading, but she can still see the hospital where Selvam and Kenny work... (full context)
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Rukmani’s memory drifts to her childhood. She grows up watching the weddings of her three older... (full context)
Rural vs. Urban Poverty Theme Icon
When Rukmani hears her mother say things like this, she childishly insists that she will have a... (full context)
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When Rukmani is twelve, her parents marry her to Nathan, a tenant farmer; everyone in the village... (full context)
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When the time comes to finally leave home, Rukmani’s mother stands in the doorway, trying not to cry. Rukmani herself feels sick, and after... (full context)
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Agriculture vs. Education Theme Icon
During the drive, Rukmani falls asleep. Nathan wakes her up excitedly when they reach his farm, which is comprised... (full context)
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Rukmani does her laundry at a brook near her new cottage. After scrubbing the laundry in... (full context)
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Kali begins gossiping to Rukmani, telling her how excited Nathan has been for her arrival. She tells Rukmani that he... (full context)
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In this period of her life, Rukmani is deeply content. The weather is good, allowing for easy farming and good harvests. Nathan... (full context)
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Once a week, Rukmani goes into town to buy vegetables and other provisions. People in the village are generally... (full context)
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However, Rukmani notes that in these kinds of marriages, it’s actually the husband who suffers, as she... (full context)
Chapter 2
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Soon, Rukmani is pregnant. Around this time, Kunthi goes into labor on a day when only Rukmani... (full context)
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Agriculture vs. Education Theme Icon
To protect her body during the pregnancy, Rukmani leaves more of the household chores to Nathan. In her leisure time, she practices her... (full context)
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When Nathan first sees Rukmani writing, he’s preoccupied; however, he strokes her hair and says that it’s good she is... (full context)
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Rukmani also tends to her small garden. She’s always excited to see each new crop, although... (full context)
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Soon after, Rukmani goes into labor. She’s disappointed to discover that her firstborn child is a girl. Kali... (full context)
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Rukmani names her daughter Irawaddy, after a large river. At first, Nathan pays the girl little... (full context)
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...she grows older, Irawaddy crawls behind her parents in the fields. While Nathan plows and Rukmani scatters the seed, the baby plays by herself or sleeps in a cloth hung from... (full context)
Chapter 3
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Years pass after Irawaddy’s birth, and Rukmani cannot become pregnant again. The neighbor women tell her not to worry, but it’s easy... (full context)
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When Irawaddy is six, Rukmani’s mother becomes ill with consumption and draws near to death. Rukmani returns home to care... (full context)
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After her mother has died, Rukmani thanks Kenny, saying that her home is open to him always. Scrutinizing her, Kenny guesses... (full context)
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Irawaddy is seven when Rukmani’s first son, Arjun, is born. She’s very interested in the baby and happy to have... (full context)
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Rukmani had hoped that Kenny would come to the celebration, but he never arrives. Nathan notices... (full context)
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As Rukmani bears more and more children, the family’s resources are stretched thin. Irawaddy and Arjun are... (full context)
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To make more money, Rukmani sells most of her vegetables in the village, usually to Old Granny. One day, Biswas,... (full context)
Chapter 4
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Rukmani has experienced change before, but what happens now in the village seems unusually fast and... (full context)
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Agriculture vs. Education Theme Icon
...sad that the workmen have departed, as they paid high prices for goods and food. Rukmani is relieved, and hopes they never return; she points out that they drive prices up,... (full context)
Suffering Theme Icon
...arrive at the tannery with their families, under the direction of the same white foreman. Rukmani stays out of the village, glad that her house is far from “the smell of... (full context)
Women and Sexuality Theme Icon
...like her brothers. However, Kali points out that strange men often look at her. Wary, Rukmani is more cautious about her daughter and restricts her freedom. She feels sorry for Irawaddy’s... (full context)
Chapter 5
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Rukmani and Nathan never see the Zemindar, or landowner, who owns their farm. Instead, they pay... (full context)
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One morning, Rukmani is gathering dung from the fields for fuel when she sees Kenny approaching. In a... (full context)
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Rukmani is proud that her children behave well in front of the guest, and that Irawaddy... (full context)
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Kenny becomes a frequent visitor at Rukmani’s house. She wonders where his own family is, but out of politeness never asks. He... (full context)
Chapter 6
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When Irawaddy is fourteen, it’s time to find a husband for her. Rukmani picks Old Granny to act as a matchmaker; she’s grateful that the old woman agrees... (full context)
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Irawaddy accepts her marriage without protest. Wistfully, she asks Rukmani how often she will visit, and her mother says she’ll come often, even though Irawaddy’s... (full context)
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Rukmani and Nathan host the small wedding, at which Irawaddy looks like a child in her... (full context)
Chapter 7
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Rukmani says that nature is much like “a wild animal that you have trained to work... (full context)
Rural vs. Urban Poverty Theme Icon
In the bustle of Irawaddy’s marriage, Rukmani and Nathan neglected to prepare the hut for the rainy season or protect the land... (full context)
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The next morning, the rain suddenly stops and Rukmani ventures outside to survey the destroyed crops. Many of her neighbors, including Kali, have even... (full context)
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In the village, Rukmani sees that while the tannery is still standing, most of the workers’ huts have been... (full context)
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The next day, Rukmani and Nathan return to town. However, the shopkeeper they go to see says he has... (full context)
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On her way home, Rukmani runs into Kenny, who looks pale and grim. When he enquires after her welfare, she... (full context)
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...in nets, and the family enjoys a feast. However, the rice crop is tiny and Rukmani knows she will have to sell many vegetables and be very careful in order to... (full context)
Chapter 8
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...sons begin to work at the tannery, bringing home high wages to their mother’s delight. Rukmani still refuses to accept the tannery, pointing out that wages buy less and less in... (full context)
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The tannery continues to grow, often absorbing the small farms that lie next to it. Rukmani can’t believe that such a high demand for tanned skins exists anywhere in the world.... (full context)
Chapter 9
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As Rukmani pounds chilies one morning, she sees two figures approaching the house. As they grow closer,... (full context)
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Nathan says that the husband’s decision is understandable, but Rukmani points out that he himself was far more patient with her. Meanwhile, Irawaddy seems exhausted... (full context)
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In his teens by now, Arjun has far surpassed Rukmani in reading and writing. Even though he’s never been to school, he manages to obtain... (full context)
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Arjun says that Kunthi’s son will procure him a job, but Rukmani counters that she will ask Kenny, since she doesn’t want to be indebted to her... (full context)
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...home their earnings. With the increased money, the family begins to eat well again, and Rukmani is able to keep her vegetables instead of selling them to pay the rent. She... (full context)
Chapter 10
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Soon, the annual festival of lights, Deepavali, arrives. For once, Rukmani has enough money for her children to partake fully in the festivities—she gives each child... (full context)
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When it gets dark, Rukmani decorates the outside of her house with candles. From the town, fireworks are beginning to... (full context)
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As Rukmani approaches the bonfire in the center of the town, she remembers Janaki, who had celebrated... (full context)
Women and Sexuality Theme Icon
Everyone is gathering around the bonfire in the center of the village, and Rukmani loses track of Nathan and her sons. At first she tries to look for them,... (full context)
Women and Sexuality Theme Icon
...giving piggyback rides to all the boys at once, to the amusement of other villagers. Rukmani chides him gently, but he says he’s been infected by the “joy in the air.”... (full context)
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At home, the children fall asleep quickly. Rukmani stretches out next to Nathan, aware that he’s still wide awake. She closes her eyes,... (full context)
Chapter 11
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Shortly after, Nathan leaves for a few days to attend a family funeral. Rukmani takes advantage of his absence to consult Kenny about Irawaddy’s infertility. She doesn’t think Nathan... (full context)
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Rukmani reaches Kenny’s office at the end of the day, when he’s “grim and tired” from... (full context)
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Walking home from Kenny’s office, Rukmani encounters Kunthi in the path. Kunthi remarks insinuatingly that Rukmani keeps “late hours,” but Rukmani... (full context)
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In close proximity to Kunthi, Rukmani notices that she has tied her sari below her bellybutton, “like a strumpet,” and that... (full context)
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After Kenny treats Irawaddy, Rukmani visits her daughter’s husband and entreats him to take her back. The husband informs her... (full context)
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Meanwhile, Rukmani herself is pregnant again. Sometimes, she sees resentment in Irawaddy’s eyes and wonders if her... (full context)
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...happy to see Irawaddy recovering, saying they should be grateful for the present happiness, but Rukmani worries about her future; without a husband to provide for her when her parents die,... (full context)
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Old Granny often talks over the issue with Rukmani and tries to console her. She tells Rukmani that her life, while difficult, is “not... (full context)
Chapter 12
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On the other days, Arjun and Thambi work long hours at the tannery. Rukmani is proud that they bring all their wages home, instead of spending them on prostitutes... (full context)
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Sometimes Nathan accompanies Rukmani when she goes to the market; on these days, they visit the tannery to talk... (full context)
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...workers asked for better wages, and the bosses retaliated by taking away their lunch hour. Rukmani is mystified, asking why they need more than they already get. The boys answer flatly... (full context)
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...strike; Thambi explains that they will not return until they are paid more fairly, although Rukmani doubts they can force the powerful posses into doing anything. (full context)
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...fails. Arjun says that “the people will never learn,” echoing what Kenny has said to Rukmani earlier. She doesn’t understand what either man is talking about. To her, it seems useless... (full context)
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With Nathan the family’s only provider, food supplies quickly dwindle. Rukmani has to stretch her supplies to ensure they will last until the harvest. Arjun and... (full context)
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One morning, Selvam rushes into the house to announce that drums are beating in town. Rukmani remembers the morning when Arjun made a similar announcement about the tannery workers’ arrival, and... (full context)
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Nathan and Rukmani are extremely reluctant to see their children go so far away, asking how they will... (full context)
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Nathan consoles Rukmani that the boys must grow up and make their own way. Still, she’s despondent to... (full context)
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...time, Kenny brings good news of him; he is succeeding in his new job, and Rukmani shouldn’t worry about him. Rukmani feels sudden pity for Kenny, sitting solemnly in her hut,... (full context)
Chapter 13
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Rukmani had hoped for a good harvest, but the rains fail to come. For weeks, she... (full context)
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Rukmani collects what meager possessions they have, even the sari she wore to her wedding, to... (full context)
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...the next crop. He can earn some money to buy more seed before planting time. Rukmani thinks this is a bad idea, because it’s nearly impossible to find work these days,... (full context)
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Eventually, Rukmani convinces Nathan not to sell the side. Instead, she pleads with Sivaji to take the... (full context)
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The drought goes on for weeks, causing the landscape to wither and dry up. Rukmani has to wait for water at the tannery reservoir, where people jostle and quarrel over... (full context)
Chapter 14
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After the rains cease, Rukmani and Nathan take their seed to be blessed at the temple and plant a new... (full context)
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...sleep restlessly because of their hunger. Once, Nathan wakes up shouting from a nightmare and Rukmani has to comfort him before he falls asleep. Rukmani dreams that a strange figure breaks... (full context)
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On the eighth day of rationing, Kunthi arrives at the cottage. Rukmani has not seen her since their encounter in town, and she has changed greatly—she has... (full context)
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Kunthi asks for a meal; Rukmani gives her some rice water but explains that she cannot spare any rice, as she... (full context)
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Kunthi threatens to tell Nathan that Rukmani lacks virtue if she doesn’t give her any rice. Rukmani protests that Nathan won’t believe... (full context)
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Eventually, Rukmani gives Kunthi seven days worth of rice. In the middle of the night, worried that... (full context)
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Nathan comes into the hut and tells Rukmani not to admonish the children. Sobbing, he admits that Kunthi forced him to give her... (full context)
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Finally, Rukmani says tiredly that Kunthi is “evil and powerful” and they should forget about the whole... (full context)
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Rukmani also feels a strange sense of relief now that they have run out of rice;... (full context)
Chapter 15
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One day, Rukmani’s son Raja doesn’t come back from his scavenging rounds. At night, some men from the... (full context)
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Rukmani wonders why she gave birth to sons only to see them lying dead in the... (full context)
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Three days later, two tannery officials visit the house. They tell Rukmani that Raja tried to steal a calfskin, and that the guards did their duty, only... (full context)
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...that Raja wasn’t “brutally treated”—the guard just “tapped” him with a stick, and Raja fell. Rukmani says that he had been working hard and eating very little. The first man reiterates... (full context)
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The first official whispers audibly to the second that Rukmani has been “reasonable”; the second lingers behind to tell Rukmani that he is sorry for... (full context)
Chapter 16
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Rukmani wonders how they will manage the reaping, given that they are so weak from hunger.... (full context)
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Some days later, Rukmani notices that Kuti has taken a turn for the better. She fears that the small... (full context)
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At daybreak, Rukmani wakes up filled with optimism. Suddenly she hears footsteps entering the hut and fears that... (full context)
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Nathan and Selvam carry Irawaddy inside and Rukmani tends to the wounds she has just caused. Seeing long cuts on Irawaddy’s arms, Rukmani... (full context)
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Rukmani returns to the hut, where Irawaddy and Kuti are lying. Irawaddy tells Rukmani to use... (full context)
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When Irawaddy’s wounds heal, she gets ready to leave the house again despite Rukmani’s injunctions to rest. She refuses to tell Rukmani where she goes, but arranges her hair... (full context)
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...says that she will do so as long as there is hunger in the house. Rukmani knows that they cannot stop her; she is no longer a child but “a grown... (full context)
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By working as a prostitute, Irawaddy buys milk for Kuti and rice for the family. Rukmani is grateful, but Nathan refuses to eat the food his daughter brings home. At first,... (full context)
Chapter 17
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Rukmani reflects that while planting “disciplines the body” and watching crops grow “uplifts the spirit,” the... (full context)
Chapter 18
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When Rukmani grows a crop of vegetables, she brings them to sell at the market. Enough shops... (full context)
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Rukmani decides to visit Kenny and buys a garland for his cottage. She finds his house... (full context)
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Rukmani says that it wasn’t right of Kenny to stay away from his wife for so... (full context)
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As Rukmani stands to leave, Kenny asks after Irawaddy. Rukmani says that she is pregnant, but that... (full context)
Chapter 19
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...He can learn quickly, as he already knows how to read and write better than Rukmani. Rukmani and Nathan are disappointed that Selvam is pursuing a different way of life, but... (full context)
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When Rukmani next sees Kenny, she thanks him for helping Selvam and asks about his new project.... (full context)
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Rukmani assents, but she privately reflects that people “would be pitiable creatures indeed” if they were... (full context)
Chapter 20
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Although the town is becoming clogged and congested, on the outskirts where Rukmani lives nature is still dominant, and the changing seasons can be seen in the green... (full context)
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For her own part, Irawaddy is unafraid and anxious to become a mother. Rukmani tends to her during her labor and she soon gives birth to a healthy child.... (full context)
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...have prevented her from prostituting herself. Already the baby seems uncomfortable in the hot sun. Rukmani tells him not to worry, although she notices how easily the child burns outside. (full context)
Chapter 21
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...hospital encounters many delays in building, and Selvam and Kenny alternate between enthusiasm and dejection. Rukmani feels skeptical and exasperated as she watches the building progress, feeling that the men lack... (full context)
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Rukmani takes Old Granny’s death especially hard. She regrets accepting the rupee from her, which could... (full context)
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As the hospital progresses, people begin to seek jobs and assistance from it. Rukmani knows that Kenny won’t be able to attend to even a tenth of the people... (full context)
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...by his second year treats some patients by himself. Kenny pays him a small wage. Rukmani wonders how he will pay a staff to run his hospital, and Kenny doesn’t seem... (full context)
Chapter 22
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...will come to see him when he’s older. Irawaddy is upset by these questions, and Rukmani hears her crying privately. (full context)
Chapter 23
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...been working as a servant, marries a girl from the city without consulting her parents. Rukmani and Nathan want to attend his wedding, but they don’t have any money to make... (full context)
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Kenny tells Rukmani that Nathan needs to rest more and eat better, but they don’t have money to... (full context)
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Kenny asks if Rukmani thinks about the future, when Nathan will be too old to farm. Rukmani replies that... (full context)
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One day while Rukmani is gathering cow dung, Sivaji comes to the hut. When she returns, she finds Nathan... (full context)
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Rukmani reflects that she always knew “the tannery would eventually be our undoing.” It has changed... (full context)
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Still, Rukmani feels unmoored and helpless without the land. She looks around her hut—it is bare and... (full context)
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...are accepting the decision without question, but they point out there’s nothing else to do. Rukmani and Nathan have decided to set off in search of Murugan, who has a good... (full context)
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...a burden to her parents. Selvam promises to look after her, despite his slim wages. Rukmani and Nathan are too exhausted and bewildered to argue with their children. (full context)
Chapter 24
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Rukmani packs the few belongings she can carry. She leaves most of her cooking vessels behind,... (full context)
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The next morning, Rukmani and Nathan hitch a ride with a bullock cart traveling towards the city. After saying... (full context)
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Soon, Rukmani notices that one of the bullocks is not well; his yoke has rubbed a large... (full context)
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The next afternoon, the carter drops Nathan and Rukmani at the outskirts of the city. They have no idea how to reach Murugan’s house... (full context)
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After hours of walking, Rukmani sees Nathan flagging and suggests they rest. They sit down in a quiet alleyway, and... (full context)
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A woman next to Rukmani tells her to hurry towards the food, as there’s not always enough. She has to... (full context)
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After Rukmani and Nathan eat, they remember that they have left their bundles of possessions in the... (full context)
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Nathan says they shouldn’t be upset by the loss of mere belongings, but Rukmani is disturbed by the prospect of appearing at Murugan’s house empty-handed, like beggars. During the... (full context)
Chapter 25
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As dawn breaks, Nathan wakes up as well. Rukmani is happy to see he looks healthier after a good sleep. They wash themselves at... (full context)
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Rukmani and Nathan make their way through the city, hoping to find Murugan before sundown. Many... (full context)
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Rukmani decides to ask the children for directions. Nathan calls them over and asks where Koil... (full context)
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At that moment, Birla, a female doctor dressed in men’s clothing, approaches. Rukmani explains her plight, and Birla remembers that Murugan came to her on Kenny’s recommendation. However,... (full context)
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The servant brings Rukmani and Nathan to a small cabin and introduces them to his friendly wife, who is... (full context)
Chapter 26
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...to find; everyone knows of the Collector, who is Murugan’s employer now. Approaching the house, Rukmani and Nathan are again dismissed as beggars, but when they mention Murugan’s name the gatekeeper... (full context)
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...woman, comes out of the cottage carrying a baby. She’s unfriendly and suspicious, even when Rukmani and Nathan introduce themselves as Murugan’s parents. Without preamble, she tells them that Murugan abandoned... (full context)
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After this blow, Rukmani and Nathan have no idea what to do. They sit down in Ammu’s cottage, which... (full context)
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Trying to conciliate the young woman, Rukmani asks Ammu about her work and picks up her youngest child. Ammu points out bluntly... (full context)
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As they share a midday meal, Rukmani suggests that there must have been “reasons” for Murugan to run away. Offended, Ammu says... (full context)
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Nathan says that he and Rukmani must leave soon and prepare to return to their village; he doesn’t reveal that they... (full context)
Chapter 27
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The beggars at the temple recognize Rukmani and Nathan and tease them, asking if they’ve encountered trouble with their son. The couple... (full context)
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One day, Rukmani decides to set up a stall as a scribe in the market. Nathan is skeptical,... (full context)
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Rukmani grows increasingly worried about Nathan, who frequently has bouts of fever and rheumatism. One day,... (full context)
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To Rukmani’s surprise, after finishing the meal, Puli stretches out next to her and falls asleep. Rukmani... (full context)
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In the morning, Puli suggests that Rukmani and Nathan work at a stone quarry outside the city, where they can make more... (full context)
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At the end of the day, Puli helps Rukmani gather the stones in a sack and bring them to the overseer for payment. Their... (full context)
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Accompanied by Puli, Rukmani and Nathan work in the quarry every day. They always give their earnings to Puli,... (full context)
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Rukmani has become attached to Puli, and is saddened by the thought of leaving him. She... (full context)
Chapter 28
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As Rukmani and Nathan earn more money, they anticipate their return home more and more. Even Puli... (full context)
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Rukmani buys rice cakes from her usual vendor, and purchases extra sweet cakes as a treat... (full context)
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When they reach the temple, Rukmani shows Nathan her purchases, both excited and ashamed to have spent more money than usual.... (full context)
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It rains the next day, and Rukmani urges Nathan to stay behind while she goes to the quarry, but he refuses. Because... (full context)
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After waiting in line for payment one evening, Rukmani finds that a small crowd has gathered around Nathan, who has fainted on the side... (full context)
Chapter 29
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Even in her old age, Rukmani remembers the following night clearly. She remembers walking down the wet street to the temple,... (full context)
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...body seems to calm, and he stops shivering. Eventually, he opens his eyes and recognizes Rukmani, telling her not to cry because “what has to be, has to be.” Rukmani won’t... (full context)
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Rukmani asks how she will go on without Nathan, but he reminds her that she’s not... (full context)
Chapter 30
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Rukmani is dazed by grief, but she slowly begins to proceed with her life again. The... (full context)
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After a long journey by cart, Rukmani and Puli reach her own village. She is overjoyed to feel the familiar earth under... (full context)
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...hospital building, still unfinished, Selvam rushes out to embrace her. Soon, Irawaddy and Sacrabani join. Rukmani introduces Puli as her son, explaining that she and Nathan have adopted him. (full context)
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Irawaddy takes Puli in her arms, promising him food and a rest. Selvam assures Rukmani that even with his small wages they will manage to survive. He understands that Nathan... (full context)