Untouchable: Scene 3 - Sohini at The Well

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Sohini: A Charming Personality

      Sohini becomes the cynosure of all eyes when she goes to a nearby well to fetch water. She looks aphrodisiac because of her slender and beautifully shaped body; callipygian with an arched waist and two round, globular breast, transparent through her muslin shirt. Bakha who watches her graceful gestures while she is walking to the well, feels proud of her. His pride is not altogether that of a brother for a sister.

The Crowd Around the Well

      The orthodox and fanatic belief does not allow the untouchables to go up the platforms of the well. If they surmount the platform of the well, the water in the well shall be impure and not be fit to drink. There is a tight surveillance around the well to safeguard the asset of upper caste Hindus. This morning the outcastes have crowded around the well and waiting for some compassionate benefactor to pour some water into their pitchers. But no passerby is a benefactor. They are suffering the scorching heat of the sun, and thirst for the sins they haven’t committed. While others wait for water Sohini is thinking about Bakha who is thirsty. She has motherly affection for her brother now. She is patient but desperate to collect some water. She is depressed but she has an exemplary fortitude.


      Gulabo beautiful, though middle-aged, is a washer-woman. She used to be a ravishing wanton who enjoyed a number of lovers. She overpowered many men by her fascinating, and tantalising appeal. Now she realises her potential rival in Sohini’s aphrodisiac look. She detests her and is jealous of her too. She makes an effort to raise a fierce belligerence to quench her burning jealousy. Sohini remains mute and does not utter even a single word.

The Belligerence

      An extract from the novel that depicts the little comedy that happens at the well:

      ‘Go back home’, said Gulabo mockingly. ‘There is no one to give you water here. There are so many of us ahead of you’.

      Sohini smiled evasively; then, recognising an elderly man in the company she modestly adjusted her apron on her head so as not to show her eyes. And she sat still, crouching by her pitcher.

      ‘Have you heard of such immodesty’ exclaimed Gulabo to Waziro, the weaver’s wife, who sat near her. ‘This sweeper girl goes about without an apron over her head all day in town and in the cantonment.’

      ‘Really’ exclaimed Waziro, pretending to be shocked, though she knew Gulabo’s evil tongue and had nothing against Sohini. ‘Yau ought to be ashamed of yourself,’ she said, winking an aside to the girl.

      Sohini could not suppress her amusement at so comic an assurance of friendliness as Waziro’s, and laughed.

      ‘Think of it. Think of it. Bitch, prostitute, wanton. And your mother hardly dead. Think of laughing in my face, Laughing at me who is old enough to be your mother. Bitch !’ the washer-woman exploded. Sohini laughed still more hilariously at the ridiculous abruptness of Gulabo’s abuse.

      ‘Ari, bitch, do you take me for a buffoon? What are you laughing at slut? Aren’t you ashamed of showing you teeth to me in the presence of men, prostitute?’ Shouted Gulabo. And she looked towards the old men and the little boys who were of the company.

      Sohini now realised that the woman was angry ‘But I haven’t done anything to annoy her’, she reflected. ‘She herself began it all and is still abusing me. I didn’t pick the quarrel. I have more cause to be angry than she has’.

      ‘Bitch, why don’t you speak. Prostitute, why don’t you answer me?’ Gulabo insisted.

      ‘Please don’t abuse me’ the girl said, ‘I haven’t said anything to you’.

      ‘You annoy me with your silence. Eater of dung and drinker of urine. Bitch of a sweeper woman. I will show you how to insult one old enough to be your mother.’ And she rose with an upraised arm and rushed at Sohini.

      Waziro, the weaver’s wife, ran after her and caught her just before she had time to hit the sweeper girl.

Pandit Kali Nath

      Their desperate waiting for water ends because Pandit Kali Nath comes there as a benefactor to give them water. He suffers from constipation, therefore he thinks it an effective way to cure his boned-problem by drawing water from the well. He successfully brings a can of water. They throng to get it. Gulabo and some others attempt to get it first. But the Brahmin, who is libidinous and lecherous catches a glimpse of Sohini, discards all and pours the water into Sohini’s pitcher. She is overcome with gratitude. Pandit has an implicit desire to molest her so he orders her to come and clean his house in the premises of the temple. She gives her consent to do so.

      Lakha abuses his daughter for being late. He needs some tea and bread to satisfy his hunger immediately. She prepares and serves tea and bread to her father and brother. Bakha gets refreshed after having his tea. He sets out with his broom and basket to clean the road of the bazar. Today he does his father’s work because he is too ill to work.

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