My Mother at Sixty Six by Kamala Das is a moving poem. In this she laments her mother’s ageing and feels extremely sad at the time her separation from her ageing mother at the airport. In the car, she notices that her mother had grown terribly old and that the two would not probably meet again. She compares her mother with a late winter’s moon. She pretends to be happy to make her mother happy and departs with a heavy heart.

In this poem, Kamala Das presents a daughter’s anguish (pain) as she is leaving her ageing mother behind her for a while. She is going to board a flight and is not sure about her timely return in case something happened to her mother.

The poet was going to the Cochin international Airport. She was probably in a taxi. It is certain that she was going to a distant place for a long stay there. She was accompanied by her aged mother. The mother was very old, older than her age. During the journey the mother slipped into a doze. Her mouth remained open like that of a dead body. Moreover her face had lost the color of life. Her face was colourless, ashen.

Possible Figures of speech / Poetic Devices
  1. Simile – “Like a late winter’s moon”
  2. Personification – “Sprinting trees”
  3. Repetition – “Smile and smile and smile.”
  4. Juxtaposition – Life outside the car and death inside the car.
  5. Alliteration – “She was as…”

Stanza 1

Driving from my parent’s home to Cochin,
last Friday morning, I saw my mother beside me
Doze, open mouthed, her face ashen like that of a corpse.

Meaning

  • Parent’s – Here, mother’s
  • Cochin – A town in Kerala (Kochi)
  • Beside – With
  • Doze – Sleep
  • Ashen – Grey (Old age)
  • Corpse – Dead body

Questions and Answers

  1. Where was the poet going? Who was with her?
    The poet was going to Cochin Airport. With her was her aged mother.
  2. How did the mother look like? Why did the poet feel sad seeing the mother’s appearance?
    The mother was sleeping inside the car with her mouth open. Her face was colourless like that of a dead body. Seeing this appearance of her mother, the poet was suddenly filled with a fear of separation and loss.
  3. Why does the poet relate the mother’s appearance to that of a corpse?
    The poet’s mother was aged. At sixty six it was hard to tell how long she would live. Moreover, inside the car she was sleeping, her mouth held open and her skin so colourless like that of a dead body.

Stanza 2

And realized with pain that she was as old as
She looked but soon put that thought away
And looked at young trees sprinting,
The merry children spilling out of their homes.

Meaning

  • Looked – Appeared
  • That thought – The thought that mother was aged
  • Put that thought away – Diverted her mind
  • Sprinting – Running (The illusion of movement)
  • Merry – Happy
  • Spilling – Run out

Notes

While the poet was deeply thinking about this separation, she happened to look at the mother. The poet was amazed to see that her mother had really grown old. Now she had to accept that her mother was really old. Her mind so heavy with this thought, the poet looked out and tried to brush away her sadness. But what she saw outside didn’t cheer her up. On the contrary she grew sadder looking out. What she saw there sharply contrasted with what she had with her. The young trees were running cheerfully. Young children were in their jolly mood, playing fun and frolic. Everything looked cheerful and lively outside while the mother remained almost lifeless and the poet sad.

Questions and Answers

  1. What did the poet realize with pain?
    The poet realized with pain that her mother had grown terribly old, a thought that she never had in her mind before.
  2. Why was the realization painful?
    The realization, that the mother was approaching death, was painful to the poet.  The poet was supposed to stay away from her mother for a long duration, far away. They might not even meet again.
  3. Why did the poet put that thought away?
    The poet was thinking about a long separation from her aged mother. She even feared that the mother and daughter would not meet again. Suddenly she noticed that her mother had been reading her mind. In an attempt to disguise her line of thoughts, the poet looked out of the car and pretended to be cheerful.
  4. What did the poet see outside of the car?
    The poet saw cheerful life outside the car. There were young trees running back in a lively mood and children playing around their houses.
  5. How does the poet strike a contrast between what travelled with her and what moved outside?
    The mother was sleeping inside the car with her mouth open. She was similar to a dead body. She was cheerless and approaching death. But outside the car was life in its freshness and vivacity. There were young trees running cheerfully. There were children playing and running merrily. This was a life-death contrast.

Next – Stanza 3

Biju John is an educational writer, educator and the author of OM - The Otherwise Men. He gives live classes on Skype and Facebook. You can attend his 3 Day Classes (English & Business Studies) in Delhi, Bangalore, Qatar and Dubai. His Contact number is 91 9810740061.

One Comments

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    • Anonymous

    • July 18, 2017

    Very helpful
    ?

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