About the Author: Kamala Das (1934—) is a leading poet from Kerala who writes both in English and Malayalam. She is known for her poetry in English and short stories in Malayalam. She was awarded the Kerala Sahitya Academy Prize in 1967 and the Asian World Prize for poetry in 1985 apart from innumerable other honours. She draws on her experiences as a woman in her writings.
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My Mother at Sixty Six | Summary
This is a heart touching poem by the Indian poet Kamla Das, whose pen name is Madhavikutty. In this wonderful poem, she describes her sentiment of love and filial attachment towards her ageing mother. The poem consists of 20 lines without a full stop which makes it easy to flow and comprehend.
The poet came to visit her mother once. She was on her way back to the airport to go back to Cochin. She looked at her mother sitting in the car next to her. Her mother went to sleep and her old face was smoky like ash. She opened her mouth and looked like a dead body. The poet knew her mother was old. She felt her pain and sympathy. Her mother needed affection, love and care.
To get out of the sorrowful feeling, the poet shifted his gaze and looked out of the car window. There she saw the passage of young trees. Little children were running into the playground out of their homes. These things were contrary to her mother’s ageing face. They symbolised energy, life and good fortune.
When they arrived at the airport and the poet was about to leave for the aeroplane, she looked at her mother once again. Her mother was weak and pale just like the moon in the winter season, which seems to have lost all its strength. The poet felt pain and fear of her mother’s loss. She remembered her childhood when she was afraid to lose her mother. As a child, she couldn’t bear separation for a few moments from her mother. Now the loss would be permanent because her mother was at the door of death and she would lose her forever.
The poet made no representation of her feelings. She smiled and said, ” See you soon, Amma, ” because she wanted to keep her mother’s hope alive.
Read Also: The Questions of My Mother at Sixty Six
My Mother at Sixty Six | Explanation and Analysis
Stanza 01: The poem consists of a total of 20 lines. These lines are divided into meaningful segments so that the poem can be easily comprehended. In these lines, the poet recalls a trip back to Cochin from her holiday in the house of her parents. It was a Friday, and that morning she was driving on the front seat with her mother next to her.
Explanation: It is a short poem, without a full stop. The poem is like a long sentence owning the continuous flowing thought process. The poet uses comparison and contrast, simile and repetition. In the first few lines, the poet goes to the Cochin airport with her old mother sitting next to her, she looks closely at her and presents her image before us.
Stanza 02: The poet says that she was watching her mother sleeping with her mouth slightly open on the front seat. The face of her mother was pale and she remembered the almost white faces of dead bodies. Then she realizes that her mother was no longer young and that her appearance was matched with her age. It was very difficult for the poet to accept and she was determined to concentrate her attention on something else.
Explanation: In these lines, the poet compares her mother to a corpse. When she looks at the pale face of her mother, she is struck by the horror and pain of losing her. The dozing mother with an open face is compared to a corpse. The poet shows the typical love and affection present in the relationship between mother and daughter.
Stanza 03: The poet says in these lines that she turned away from her old mother and decided to look outside the windows of the car she was driving in. Outside her eyes fell on the trees passing by the vehicle. The car was moving so fast that it seemed to the poet that all the trees she could see were also passing by at full speed. It appeared that these trees had to be quite young if they had the energy to move so fast.
The eyes of the poet also touch the children who came out of their houses with their excitement to get out. The poet went through all these attractions and reached the airport. Until then, the sights distracted her mind. After the security check, however, she stood a short distance from her mother and noticed the old woman again. Her mother appeared, just like before, very pale and insipid.
Explanation: The poet is pained and takes her attention away from the car to drive the negative feelings out. She changes her sad mood. The scene outside the window is of increasing energy and life. The fast sprinting trees next to the happily playing children symbolise life, youth and vitality. The poet is reminded of her own childhood when her mother was young, while she is now encircled by the fear that she will lose her and that has made her insecure.
She ‘s at the airport for a flight. It indicates departure and separation that produces melancholy. As she turns away from her mother, the image of the old wan, worn out mother strikes her again in the twilight of years. Again, a similarity is used to compare her mother with a late winter moon whose light is an obstacle caused by fog and nebula.
The poet feels the pain of separation and of leaving his mother. She is also haunted by her childhood fear of losing her mother, which she feels was temporary earlier, but can be forever since she could die of old age. She’s so sorry that it’s natural for her to cry, but she hides her tears and smiles on her brave forehead.
She says goodbye to her mother and keeps her hope that she will see her alive again, ” see you soon, Amma. ” She hides her sorrow because she doesn’t want to create a painful environment for her mother and tells her that her mother should also be happy and enjoy her life, as she enjoys her life.
The theme of My Mother at Sixty Six
The theme of the poem revolves around the advancing age and the fear connected to its loss and separation. It is an emotional account of the approaching end of the mother through the eyes of her daughter. The seemingly short poem deals with the theme of the filial bond between mother and daughter in the context of nostalgia and fear.
Read Also: The Questions of My Mother at Sixty Six