Kennington and Rukmani discuss their approaches to suffering and injustice. Sum up each person’s opinions

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teachsuccess | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Hello! You asked about 'Nectar In A Sieve' by Kamala Markandaya. Kennington is the English doctor who ministers to the people in Rukmani's village. Rukmani, the narrator and protagonist of the novel, is a traditional Indian wife and mother. Both Kennington and Rukmani become good friends when he quietly aids her; after being barren for many years (despite initially bearing a girl), Rukmani eventually bears six sons due to Kennington's fertility treatments.

Both Kennington and Rukmani hold diametrically opposite views on suffering and injustice. Kennington (Kenny) is rather a man of action. He raises money for the hospital that Rukmani's village needs and he does his fundraising in India and abroad. Rukmani is incredulous that people who do not know them would care enough to donate for the building of the hospital. Kenny tells her that people who need help should call out for it instead of suffering heroically as if it was a passport to righteousness:

"Do you think that spiritual graces come from living in want?"

Rukmani, however, believes that all should accept what fate decrees and that all should face suffering with quiet dignity. She believes that suffering is necessary so that 'the soul may be cleansed.'

"To those who live by the land there must always come times of hardship, of fear and of hunger, even as there are years of plenty. This is one of the truths of our existence as those who live by the land know; that sometimes we eat and sometimes we starve.”

Hindus like Rukmani believe that suffering is a form of redemption. She accepts her lowly position in the Indian caste system and does not rebel against it. When she seeks help from Kenny for her infertility, she does so only because she wants to preserve the Indian tradition of having enough sons to care for her and Nathan in their old age. Kenny, on the hand, cannot understand this seemingly noble suffering: to him, it is pointless. Even though his wife eventually leaves him, he is back in India; he may not be able to ease his own suffering, but he sure is going to ease the suffering of the people in Rukmani's village as much as he can. One suspects that Kenny's charity work is as much a catharsis as it is a salve for his own suffering. On the other hand, Rukmani sees adversity as a test of character: for her, more suffering brings on greater endurance on her part.

Thanks for the question!

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