When Rukmani grows a crop of vegetables, she brings them to sell at the market. Enough shops have sprung up that she no longer has to sell to Biswas, whom she despises. Still, she sees him in the street, and he tells her that Kenny has returned to the village. She points out that this is good news for everyone, but Biswas says insinuatingly that he knows she is close to Kenny and that he has heard of their friendship from Kunthi. Rukmani calls him a “carrion crow,” but soon her anger subsides. She knows Biswas isn’t worth a fight.
Previously, Rukmani’s worries over her reputation led her to capitulate to Kunthi. Now, since she no longer has secrets from Nathan, she’s imperturbable. Her strong marriage leads to peace of mind in all aspects of life.
Rukmani decides to visit Kenny and buys a garland for his cottage. She finds his house bare and caked with dust. Many people have brought garlands just like Rukmani’s, and he welcomes her with a laugh. Rukmani says that she has missed him, not only for the help he provides but for his gentle presence. She confides that Raja and Kuti have died, then asks about his own family. Kenny roughly admits that his wife has left him, and he’s estranged from his sons.
Kenny hasn’t experienced tragedy on the scale of Rukmani’s, but his domestic woes do parallel hers. However, it’s important to note that Kenny’s troubles stem from his own refusal to consider himself as a husband and father foremost, while Rukmani’s derive from the flawed system in which she lives.
Rukmani says that it wasn’t right of Kenny to stay away from his wife for so long, but that his wife should have accompanied him wherever he went. Kenny says that she simplifies everything because she has such a limited worldview. Rukmani counters that she is limited but “not wholly without understanding,” especially in the ways of her own culture. Although Kenny lives in her country and cares for its people, she says, it is not his own country and never will be. Kenny says he is just beginning to have that realization himself.
Kenny is incorrect and somewhat condescending when he says that Rukmani “simplifies” everything—she’s merely evaluating his life from her family-centered worldview, while his worldview is oriented around individual fulfillment. While Kenny abrogates control of the dialogue—he wants to decide which views are simple, and which are nuanced—Rukmani nimbly rebukes him. By reminding him that this is not his country, she’s refusing to let his foreign principles define her conception of her own culture. Without fully knowing it, she’s taking a stand against cultural imperialism.
As Rukmani stands to leave, Kenny asks after Irawaddy. Rukmani says that she is pregnant, but that the baby’s father is unknown. Kenny says that the baby will bring happiness to the family, and she shouldn’t pay attention to other people’s judgmental comments. As Rukmani walks home, she reflects that Kenny’s thoughts on this subject are very similar to Nathan’s.
Even though the previous exchange has shown the vast gulfs between Rukmani and Kenny, she’s again brought closer to him by his similarities to her husband. It’s important to understand that while Rukmani’s life is centered around her family, this doesn’t make her blindly adherent to community norms.