Character Sketch of Sohini in Untouchable
Sohini is the daughter of Rakha and the sister of Bakha, the protagonist of the novel Untouchable by Mulk Raj Anand. She belongs to the scavenger community, an outcaste. She had played a crucial role in unmasking the hypocrisy and licentiousness of Pundit Kali Nath, a caste Bramhin, usually believed to be excelling in the social strata.
Sohini’s Physical Charm
Mulk Raj Anand writes,
“She had, a Sylph like form, not thin but full-bodied, within the limits of her graceful frame, well rounded on the hips, with an arched narrow waist from which descended the folds of her salwar and above which were her full, round, globular breasts, jerking slightly, for lack of a bodice, under her transparent muslin shirt”.
Although she is the daughter of a sweeper jamadar, she lives in filth and squalor but Sohini has got a ravishing charm. It is this extra ordinary charm which has inflamed Gulabo. Mulk Raj Anand writes,
“The delicate features of her rising beauty had inflamed Gulabo’s body. The girl was a potential rival. Gulabo hated the very sight of her innocent, honest face, though she would not confess, even to herself, that she was jealous of the sweeper-girl. But she unconsciously betrayed her feeling in the mockery and light hearted abuse with which she greeted Sohini.”
Hard Work and Modesty
Sohini is unpretentious, simple and modest. She is never proud of her ravishing charm. She seems to be quite unaware of her extraordinary beauty. She is humble, and shy. She does her work honestly and never betrays her physical fatigue. She prepares tea for breakfast and meals for morning and evening. She cleans the latrines of the caste Hindus. But she never complains. She betrays bold smiles through tears. She bears the misery, hardship and social tyranny with a smiling face. Anand portrays Sohini at work, “She was blowing hard at it (fire), lifting herself on her haunches on the mud floor. Her head almost touched the ground, but each puff “succeeded only in raising a spurt of smoke from the wet sticks that served as fuel.”
Sohini is an untouchable. She cannot take water from the well of caste Hindus. She knows that she may pollute caste Hindu so she voids touching anything which belongs to the caste Hindus. Poverty has made her humble and submissive. She does crave for human love and dignity. But she is greeted with abuses at home and insulted and humiliated out of her house. She falls a prey to Pandit Kali Nath’s lecherous assault. He molests her chastity and accuses her of polluting his holiness in return. She wins our sympathy.
Sohini exposes the hypocrisy of the caste Hindus who say that they are polluted by the mere touch to a sweeper, but the holy priests, the custodians of Hindu religion do not hesitate to molest an outcaste girl. Premila Paul writes in this context, “His coward attempt to molest Sohini appears all the more offensive because of his accusing her and her brother of defiling him at the temple when the attempt is foiled. This brings into sharp focus the standards and perfidy underlying the façade of purity and spirituality. It is ironic that the Brahmin, ‘the custodian of culture in India’ as Trinayya calls him, makes an attempt to violate one of the fundamental codes of culture. The innocent Bakha and Sohini become victims of the conventional moral codes.”
Sohini has exposed the shortcomings of her own community. The rivalry between Gulabo and Sohini is an index of the good and the evils among the untouchables also.
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