Rukmani is at first curious as to what is going on when the men who build the tannery arrive. She is amazingly clearsighted, however, and once she sees the effect the tannery has on the village's way of life, she is resentful and filled with foreboding.
When the white men first arrive, Rukmani rushes out with the rest of the villagers to see what they will do. She notes that initially, the overseer and the workers "seem to enjoy having created such a stir and lured such a big audience", but after awhile, the overseer tells the people to go, so as not to disturb the men. Rukmani and some of the onlookers are somewhat taken aback that the newcomers should be so presumptuous as to tell them what to do in their own village, but she and most of the others comply, "having (their) own concerns in mind". When at long last the tannery is finished, some people are unhappy to see the workers go, but Rukmani is not. She says,
"They had invaded our village with clatter and din, had taken from us the maidan where our children played, and had made the bazaar prices too high for us".
Nathan tells Rukmani that she would do well to accept the changes which are inevitable, but she replies,
"Never, never...they may live in 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".
As her friends one by one find positive aspects in the changes brought by the coming of the tannery, Rukmani sticks to her original belief that this development can be nothing but inauspicious. She reflects that
"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".
She expresses her ire and misgivings to her husband, but eventually dissembles her opposition for the sake of her children. She remains, however, definitely unhappy about what she sees as a negative intrusion into their established way of life (Chapter 4).