Literature is the analytical, critical, emotional and psychological expression of human life which is nothing but a bouquet of multi-coloured relationships like filial relationship, conjugal relationship and sibling relationship. Though all the relationships are important part of life yet man-woman relationship is considered the most pervading human relationship. Emphasizing the importance and value of the man-woman relationship, D.H. Lawrence, a great English novelist, points out in ‘Morality and the Novel’, “The great relationship for humanity will always be the relation between man and woman. The relation between man and man, woman and woman, parent and child will always be subsidiary.” (1972: l30)
Right from the ancient epics and legends to modern fiction, the most characteristic and powerful form of literary expression in modern time, literary endeavour has been to portray this relationship along with its concomitants. Twentieth century novelists treat this subject in a different manner from those of earlier writers. They portray the relationship between man and woman as it is, whereas earlier writers concentrated on as it should be. Now-a-days this theme is developing more important due to rapid industrialization and growing awareness among women of their rights to individuality, empowerment, employment and marriage by choice etc. The contemporary Indian novelists in English like Anita Desai, Sashi Deshpande, Sashi Tharoor, Salman Rusdie, Shobha De, Manju Kapoor, Amitav Ghosh etc. deal with this theme minutely in Indian social milieu.
Amitav Ghosh, an anthropologist-cum-novelist possesses a deep knowledge of human psyche regarding man-woman relationships. He is concerned with the inner world of his characters. He tries to look for the deep desires, emotions and feelings felt by his characters and shows them as the influencing factor behind their action. In his novel ‘The Hungry Tide’ (2004), Ghosh chiefly focuses on the extensive archipelago of tiny islands and labyrinthine waterways known as the Sundarbans which is situated in the southern coast of Bengal in India. The people, living there, share an extremely complex ecological and social system free from caste and religion bias. Man-woman relationship is a significant issue in this novel because it explores Ghosh’s vision of this relationship which is different from that in most of the other Indian English novelists who think that it is never easy for woman in societies like India to break away from traditional notions of womanhood, especially as there is no widespread system of support available, such as woman’s support groups. The extended family is often the only support network women have, and there is very real fear of being completely isolated with no means of survival.
In Indian patriarchal society, man-woman relationship is akin to master-servant relationship. Dr. A.K. Mishra observes, “Man-woman relationship is based on the woman’s subjugation to man in India where a woman...