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Unpredictable Behaviour of Women during Conjugal and Extra-marital Relationship: A Study of Arun Joshi’s The Last Labyrinth

Prof. D. Amalraj
Tamilnadu, India.

            Good relationship among human beings is the greatest and most unique virtue without which cordiality can never be achieved. There is a relationship between a man and a man, a woman and a woman, and a man and a woman. If there is a relationship between two men, it is between a father and his son, or between two brothers or between two friends or between a father-in-law and his son-in-law. If there is a relationship between two women, it is between a mother and her daughter or between two sisters or between two friends or between a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law. If there is a relationship between a man and a woman, it is between a man as a father and a woman as his daughter or between a man as the husband and a woman as his wife or between a man as a lover and a woman as his love or between a man as a brother and a woman as his sister. If every type of these human relationships is to remain healthy and exemplary, it should mainly depend upon certain virtues. Such virtues are “[reciprocal] understanding, acceptance, patience, adjustment, [forgetting and forgiving], and kind-heartedness” (Smith, Virtues of Healthy Relationship n.pag.). All types of human relationships except sexual reveal explicitly both pleasantness and unpleasantness through the behaviour of the people involved. However, sexual relationship between a man and a woman is private and personal, and it is not meant for public discussion and consumption. It may be between the lovers, or between the married partners or between the married men with the women who are married to other men or vice versa. Whatever may be the nature of sexual relationship, both the partners in sex behave in a way that pleases both in a given situation and thereby they can enjoy the sexual pleasure to their hearts’ content. However, their behaviour during sexual relationship may not be similar. Though both will not behave identically during sexual relationship, their acts may certainly place them in a state of excitement. Besides, sexual relationship other than conjugal is not a preplanned one but it is entirely spontaneous in a situation suitable to it. Of man and woman who are involved in sexual relationship of any nature, it is only the woman who is the more imaginative, impulsive, and strange in sexual behaviour with her man. The writer of this article has taken Arun Joshi’s The Last Labyrinth to study the eccentric behaviour of women characters during their conjugal and extra-marital relationship with Som Bhaskar.             

Key Words:

Women, Sex, Relationship, Behaviour, Conjugal, Extra-marital    


Man and woman enter into sexual relationship either for pro-creation or for relaxation or for enjoyment during their sojourn on earth. If both are married, they enter into a conjugal relationship not only for enjoyment but also for procreation of their future posterity. While indulging in sexual relationship, their enjoyment is legally a personal affair. If both are unmarried, if they are lovers, and if they enjoy sex for a short and happy togetherness, theirs is called premarital relationship and it is against all moral norms. Such a relationship is only the result of their violation of the well established cultural habits with which they have been brought up. If a married man has sex with the other woman who is married to a different man or if a married woman has sex with the other man who is married to a different woman secretly, their relationship turns to be an extra-marital one. This kind of extra marital affair is not only their betrayal of marital accord but also that of the love and trust of those with whom they have already been married. They indulge in secret sex to quench their extra thirst as and when this relationship is available. However, all those pairs involved in sexual affair should experience real and reciprocal love between them. If it is a real love, both of them will enjoy ecstasy and contentment in their sexual act. If it is absent, their sexual relationship will turn out to be mere mechanical and they cannot derive sexually any satisfaction from each of them. Moreover, if both entertain an attitude “Come what may, let us enjoy sex so that we can feel relaxed from mundane realities of life,” their attitude will pave the way for their sexual relationship turning into a mere casual affair. Men and women of all ages who are prone to their enjoyment of premarital or extra marital relationship carry out their sexual acts only for individual but more extra exciting pleasures. 

            Both unmarried man and woman who get attracted to each other sexually will try to utilize the chances available in order to indulge in pre-marital relationship secretly. Their indulgence in sex may be due to the lack of friendly environment at home. It may be due to non availability of loving and affectionate parental relationships at home. It may be due to patriarchal attitudes of the parents, controlling the freedom of their wards. In the article titled “Premarital Sexual Relationship: Explanations of Actions and Functions of Family,” it has been observed:
            If families don’t take care of the emotional needs of their youthful daughters or sons or if they don’t pay personal attention to them, their children will be attracted to outside sources. When such girls or boys meet the opposite genders and if they find them showing interest in them, they spontaneously accept. When such opposite genders become very thick and close friends, their close relationship may lead them to premarital relationship. Most of the times, families of our society bring up their children, girls in particular, in a completely closed environment. Such girls are always instructed ‘not to make friendship with the boys, do this, don’t do that, and don’t take  the boys into your personal confidence.’ In such forced restraints on their friendly   relationship with the boys, the girls may voluntarily enter into pre-marital sexual   relationship with them for pleasure to assert their individuality. (Noroozi et al. 428)

Thus, the unmarried young men and women who become very intimate friends cannot but resort to enjoying premarital relationship as and when they have the chances. It is their independent action that is carried out as their silent opposition against the dominating, controlling, and loveless attitudes of their respective parents. Sometimes, the parents’ sexual acts without minding the presence of their grown up children at home may also act as an indirect motivation to the children to violate their cultural habits.

            Conjugal relationship is between two life partners who get united permanently as husband and wife though the traditionally arranged marriage. After their marriage, both become independent individuals and they have sexual relationship for the procreation of their own posterity without much ado and without any societal and familial restrictions. In the 7th chapter of 1Corinthian of The New Testament, it is stated: 
            Each man should have a woman as his own wife and each woman should have a man       as her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. But the wife does not have authority over her own   body, but the husband does. Likewise, the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Both should not deprive each other [of the right to   sexual relationship], except perhaps by agreement for a limited time that both may devote themselves to prayer [and other activities for the betterment of their family];  but then they come together again, so that Satan may not tempt them [to go astray]   because of their lack of self-control. (New International Version 2-8)

Thus, marriage is binding force of a man and a woman as husband and wife. Each should live only to take care of the other’s physical and emotional need as and when such needs are necessary. Both thus united in marriage will never deviate from the path of marital peace and happiness to preserve their earthly togetherness intact and act as the creators of their own posterity. This is the significance of conjugal relationship.

            Sometimes, both the husband and wife do not remain satisfied with each other in their sexual gratification. Sometimes, both of them are quite indifferent to each other’s emotional and bodily needs due to pressing parental activities and professional duties. Such situations make either of them or both get tempted to violate their marital accord and bliss if they always think of sex. As a result, they find ways and means to satisfy their sexual needs with the other married women and men who are also sailing in the same boat like them. They may sometimes get more attracted to physical and sexual appearance of their opposite genders and indulge in extra marital relationship without the knowledge of their respective marital partners. During their secret sexual act, they do not behave similarly. Both behave in a quite unexpected way to the expectations of each other. In an article entitled Differences of Sexual Desires between Men and Women, it is clearly brought out:

[Married] men and women daydream of their sex with various partners and in various situations before they actually indulge in. Most men just want sex for the physical sake of sex itself without the entanglement of a relationship. . . . However, many women are usually more interested in intimacy with men than in sex. A feeling of intimate closeness takes time to develop into extra-marital relationship. Therefore, women want to take their own time with a relationship. Eventually, both the genders get around to sex when they feel closeness and believe that they are in love . . .  Moreover, women want not only to be approached in a loving romantic way but also to be caressed tenderly by men before they enter into actual sex with them.  (2004)

            The writer has taken Arun Johsi’s The Last Labyrinth to study how women characters such as Geeta, Leela Sabnis, and Anuradha behave quite strangely as and when they indulge in sexual relationship, both marital and extra marital, with Som Bhaskar, the son of a wealthy industrialist. Through this article, he drives home the eternal truth that every woman whether she is married or not will never behave identically during her sexual act with a man as he expects. Every woman is quite different from the other because one is used to behaving quite strangely and in an unexpected way but the reason for this is known only to such a woman. It should be her unique and individual trait. One woman’s act in sex with a man can never be generalized, stating that all women, whether they are married or not, behave uniformly in their sexual relationship. Only the involved in relationship know or realize the difference in their sexual act.


            Som Bhaskar is a blessed man for having been born as the son of the wealthy parents. He has all the civilized amenities to enjoy his earthly life as per his heart’s desires. However, he is not content with enjoying his material wealth. He is not a man to have sexual enjoyment even before his marriage with any woman he likes. He only wants to enter into a traditional marital life with a woman of his liking and enjoy conjugal relationship with her without any hindrances. He also feels certain that as his wife, his prospective life partner will cater to all his physical and emotional needs not only in the way he wants but also as and when he wants. But he is quite ignorant of the nature of each and every woman and her attitudes to sexual relationship before, during, and after her marital life. He looks totally confused whether the woman he will marry will act according to his whims and fancies during his conjugal relationship. Yet, he is very positive that his life partner and helpmeet will certainly behave as he expects. Being rich and an independent individual, he does not experience any ado in getting his life partner. An extraordinary looking and well mannered woman by name Geeta becomes his wife through an arranged marriage.

            Som Bhaskar finds Geeta extremely beautiful and he is very happy to see his wife a well mannered lady too. He thus appears completely satisfied with her appearance and manners. But at the same time, he expects his conjugal relationship with her to be very intense, equally reciprocal, and full of excitement. But Geeta begins to behave more like a woman being acted upon during her conjugal relationship on the bed than acting herself to the level of the expectations of her husband. Being traditional and highly religious, Geeta feels that her sexual satisfaction lies in satisfying her husband but not in acting with the wings of wild imagination during her sexual relationship. Moreover, she is also quite ignorant of the expectations of her husband regarding how she should behave while enjoying conjugal relationship with him. She does not make any attempts to understand whether her husband is satisfied or not with her behaviour after every conjugal love too. Neither is she interested in asking him how she has behaved on the bed during her sex with him. Som Bhaskar feels that his sexual relationship with his wife is purely one-sided though she simply obeys as and when he approaches her for sex. Therefore, he does not feel both sexually excited and satisfied with his wife though she has begotten him two daughters. Even after his marriage, he continues to suffer from an insatiable “hunger of the body and hunger of the spirit” (11). He decides to find more sexual pleasures outside his marital bond with other women who are ready to fall in line with his thinking and cooperate with him in satisfying his sexual hunger to his level of imagination.

            As a man, Som is quite different from all other men in his thirst for different varieties of sexual acts for excitement during relationship. Since he is not able to get what he wants sexually from his wife, he begins to search for the body of a new woman for his more sexual enjoyment. Moreover, he is always disturbed in his heart for a lack of emotional sexual relationship. His words express his heart’s desire:

            I want. I want. I want [sex and nothing but sex, which will place me in an excited   state]. Through the light of my days and the blackness of my nights and the disquiet            of those sleepless hours, I heard the same trident- ‘I want. I want. I want.’- it not only     starts echoing in my heart frequently but also it becomes stronger and stronger      every time as it is echoed in his heart. (11)

Thus, he wants a woman with the attitude to sex like that of his so that she can satisfy the hunger of his soul. But at the same time, he does not know how every other woman he will meet for sex will behave with him not only during sex but also soon after her sexual relationship with him being over. He forgets his cultural and traditional brought up in his search for women who can give him complete sexual satisfaction. In this state of mind, he remains ignorant of the behaviour of both unmarried and married women in sexual relationships. He also looks clueless whether all his expectations on the bed with different women will be to his liking or will turn out to be a greatest disappoint to him. Dr. Neeti Agarwal in an abstract of her article titled “The Reverberation of Indianness in Joshi’s The Lat Labyrinth” has clearly brought out the state of mind of young men like Som Bhaskar:

            The Last Labyrinth by Arun Joshi is not about mere Som Bhaskar alone and his     attitude to [sexual] life but it is about all the post colonial youths like him. All the youths including Som Bhaskar have lost not only their spiritual and cultural moorings in their search for worldly pleasures. Through the character of Som Bhaskar, the novelist tries to say that the westernized way of [sexual] life can never give happiness because real happiness lies in one’s culture and traditions. (14 Nov.2016)

            In such a situation, in such a state of mind, and with such an attitude, the woman whom Som Bhaskar comes across for his extra marital relationship is Anuradha. As an eligible woman, she is living with a man called Aftab but she is not his wife. On seeing her, Som Bhaskar gets greatly attracted because “she looks a monument to him and like any other monument, she appears tall, handsome, ruined” (12). He also finds her having dark and sexy eyes and graceful and sensuous body. He looks startled on hearing her say about her philosophy of life that she cannot marry everyone she loves.  As far as she is concerned, it is better for her not to get married to any man. She informs Som Bhaskar, “I can imagine I am married to Aftab. I can imagine I am married to you. But my mother used to say that I have been married to Lord Krishna” (128). Moreover, she is not ready to part with Aftab in any situation and at any cost for the sake of sex with others, even if not with him. During his stay for the night at Lal Haveli for the first time, Som Bhaskar has the chance of giving a concrete shape to his soul’s sexual desires through his erotic foreplay with Anuradha:

            He kisses her hand, and her arm. He also breathes in great gulps her strange [body]          perfume. [She does not just keep quiet]. She responds to him positively by taking his           face in her hands and continues to look at him in silence. But when he tries to kiss her, she moves away from him, looking annoyed as if she were not interested in having sex with him. (55-58)
Hence, Som Bhaskar feels disappointed at her attitude towards him and her reluctance to have sex with him. But he does not lose his hope that he will one day possess her entire body for himself. However, he realizes that his enjoyment of real sex with her mainly depends on his understanding of her real self.

            Som Bhaskar gradually becomes obsessed with her body wherever he is and whatever he does. He makes frequent visits to her in order to win her from Aftab for his sole possession. But her way of behaviour towards him is beyond his comprehension. The more he thinks of her, the more he gets excited sexually. During one of his visits, he informs her of his disturbance in his dream and the words heard in his dream, “I want. I want. I want, May be it is you I want” (160). At once, Anuradha understands the intensity of his love for her and gives herself to him for his sexual enjoyment. During their first sexual relationship, there are scares on her belly, her breasts, scars that he feels but hardly sees. They communicate with each other through the trust and push and pull of their bodies. Both are reciprocal in their response to each other during sexual act. Both are acting equally and erotically to satisfy each other. This kind of response from his wife he has not got during his sexual act. Som Bhaskar considers this kind of sexual relationship with Anuradha real and genuine.  Thus, his soul at last finds its sexual fulfillment with the body of Anuradha and he has thus become successful in his quest.

            Som Bhaskar feels satisfied after the attainment of real sex but he decides to leave her forever. However hard he tries to avoid her, his soul takes him to her and makes him enjoy excessive sex. As a result, he has a massive heart attack. Being true to herself in his love for Som Bhaskar, she prays to Gargi, a woman with supernatural powers, that she should save him. If Gargi saves his life, she promises to her that she will disappear from him never to return. Her prayer for Som Bhaskar’s survival from heart attack is answered. As she has promised, Anuradha disappears into the maze of Lal Haveli and reaches the last labyrinth of her life in the maze. Thus, her love for him is true and she has sacrificed her love and life for his well being. As he is not able to see her again, he feels guilty of having used her body in his state of excitement. He seeks her forgiveness by appealing to her:

Anuradha, listen, listen wherever you are. Is there a God where you are? Have you met Him? Does he understand the language that we speak? Anuradha if there is a God  and if you have met him and if He is willing to listen, then, Anuradha, my soul, tell  him, tell this God, to have mercy upon me. Tell him I am weary of so many fears; so much doubtings. Of this dark earth and these empty heavens. Plead for me, Anuradha. He will listen to you. (222-23)

            Som Bhaskar then comes across a woman named Leela Sabnis, a Professor. He does not know that she strongly believes in free love and she has also the same state of mind like him in enjoying sex with different men. She is the one who cannot act as per her bed partner but only as per her liking. Her male partner cannot dictate her how she should behave while enjoying sex. She will act as per her desire. She is a divorced woman and as she is now an independent individual, she wants to enjoy sex with any man she meets. During her sexual act with other men, she does not bother about whether her male partner really enjoys sex with her to his heart’s content or not. Her sexual satisfaction is the only purpose with which she indulges in extra marital affair.

            Som is not aware of the attitude of Leela Sabnis to her sexual relationship. When he meets her, he begins to think that he has met the right woman as his sexual partner, and he also believes that she will satisfy him in the way he expects. But during her sexual act with him,” She offers him the joy of her small and sweaty breasts but at the same time, she analyses his entire sexual urge saying, you are much too high strung . . . you are neurotic and a compulsive fornicator” (78-80). Som Bhaskar feels disappointed because he cannot enjoy genuine love-making and her reaction to sexual act with him is very casual and habitual. Her behaviour after sex startles him too because:

To him, Leela Sabnis appears to be a muddled creature like him. She is muddled by her ancestry, by marriage, by divorce, by too many books. She has made love to him. After it, she stands smoking, looking down at him very casually as if her today’s sexual relationship were over. She does not mind with whom she has sex. For the day, she has had her sex and that is enough. (77-78)

Hence, Som’s extra marital relationship with her does not rise to a great level. Neither does his soul feel content. Though she cannot provide genuine sexual satisfaction to his soul, he has to keep his soul adjusting itself to the available sexual partner.


            Som Bhaskar is not unique in his thirst for sex. Universal attitude of men for sex with women has been portrayed through the character of Som Bhaskar. His portrayal as a sex maniac is neither exaggerated nor purely fictional but real. It also brings out different shades of sexual relationship. It may be genuine or it may be for the sake or it may be for time passing. Human relationships of all types pose great problems to all human beings and one such relationship is pre-marital, marital and extra-marital sexual. Arun Joshi brings out this truth through the search for Som Bhaskar’s reciprocal and genuine sexual relationship with the women whom he encounters during his quest.
                                                          Works Cited

Agarwal, Dr. Neeti. “The Reverberation of Indianness in Joshi’s The Last Labyrinth.”      Ashvamegh Indian e-journal of English Literature, vol. 2, no.12, 2016, n.pag. www.      ashvamegh.net/arun-joshis-last-labyrinth-indianness-novel/ Accessed 29 Mar. 2020.

“1Corinthian’7:2-8.” The New Testament. Holy Bible: New International Version, 2011. 
“Differences of Sexual Desires between Men and Women” Uncommon Knowledge. 29 Feb.        2004, n.pag. Accessed 26 Mar. 2020.

Joshi, Arun. The Last Labyrinth. Orient Paperbacks, 1981.
Noroozi, Mahanz et al. “Premarital Sexual Relationship: Explanations of Actions and      “Functions of Family.” Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research, vol.19,         no.4, 2014, pp.424-431.

Smith, Georgia. “Virtues of Healthy Relationship.” Living Wellmag.com, 5 April 2017,    n.pag. www.livingwellmag.com/virtues-healthy-relationships/ Accessed 26 Mar. 2020.