Poem. 1 MY MOTHER AT SIXTY SIX by KAMALA DAS Summary:
1. The poet is driving from her parents home to Cochin by car, her mother by her side—sleeping – open mouthed very pale, colorless and frail-like a dead body indicating that her end was near.
2.The poet looks at her and feels intense pain and agony to realize that soon death will cast her mother from her.
Tries to divert her mind, looks outside at the young trees and happy children bursting out of their homes in a playful mood (a contrasting image)
3.After the security check at the airport looked again at her mother’s face—pale and cold. “Familiar ache-My childhood fear” –4.the poet has always had a very intimate and close relationship with her mother and she has always felt the fear of being separated from her mother hence it is familiar.
5.The poet reassures her mother that they will meet again
COMPREHENSION QUESTIONS : Read the extracts and answer the questions that follow.
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 and realized with pain That looked as old as she was But soon put that thought far away.”
a) Where is the poet at present? The poet is on her way from her ancestral home to Cochin Airport ,travelling by a car with her aged mother dozing off leaning against her body.
b) How does the poet describe her mother? The poet describes her mother as old, pale, cold and senile. As she dozed off beside her, the mother looked almost like a corpse, for her face was colorless and seemed to have lost the colour and vitality of life.
c) Who does ‘she’ refer to in the last line? What thoughts had she driven away?
‘She’ here refers to the poet, Kamala Das. She wanted to put the haunting thought of parting with her mother away.
d). Explain the expression’…. Pain that looked as old as she was…’ Her pain about losing her mother is as old as she was. The poetess wants to
express the idea that the pain / fear was haunting her since her child hood.
- “… but soon put that thought far away, and looked out at young trees sprinting, the merry children spilling out of their homes…”
a) What was the poet ‘looking’ at? What did she notice? The poet was looking at her mother. She noticed the mother’s ashen and almost lifeless face distraught with pain.
b) What thought did she try to drive away?
She tried to drive away the thought of her mother’s approaching death.
c) Why did the poet start ’looking out’? What does her gesture suggest? The poet started looking out of the window because she wanted to drive away the pain and agony she experienced on seeing her aged mother. She wanted to drive away her helplessness in the wake of her mother’s ageing and approaching death.
d) What did the poet see from the window of the car?
The poet saw young trees running past her car and merry children sprinting out of their homes to play.
e) What did the images of ‘young trees’ and ‘merry children’ symbolize? Trees and children symbolize the spring of life, its strength, vigour and happiness
which contrasts with the lifelessness and helplessness that sets in with age.
- “ but after the airport’s security check, standing a few yards away, I looked again at her, wan, pale as a late winter’s moon”
a) Who is ‘I ’ and why is she at the airport? ‘I’ is the poet Kamala Das here and the poet was at the Cochin airport waiting to board the plane to Kolkota.
b) Who does ‘her’ here to? How did she look like? ’Her’ here refers to the poet’s aged mother. In her declining stage of health , the mother looked pale, cold like a corpse and like a colourless, dull later winter moon. c) Why does the narrator ‘look at her again’? The narrator looked at her mother once again for the last time before she left to reassure herself about the well being of her mother. She had tried to drive away the pain she had felt on seeing her weak and aged mother. It was a look of reassurance to meet her again , of anxiety and fear that it would be her last meeting .
d) Explain: ’wan, pale as a late winter’s moon’. In this simile, the poet similarises the mother’s pale and withered face to the late winter’s moon. Winter symbolizes death and the waning moon symbolizes decay. Just like the winter loses its magnificence and brightness in winter covered and dimmed in fog and mist, the thick cover of
the winter of old age has made the mother weak, pale, withered, inactive and spiritless.
- “ and felt that old familiar ache, my childhood’s fear, but all I said was, see you soon, Amma, all I did was smile and smile and smile.”
a) What ‘familiar ache’ did the poet feel? The ‘familiar ache’ refers to the poet’s fear of losing her mother and the realization that she has not cared and cannot care for her ageing mother. It is an ache of helplessness. It is also a fear of
separation from the mother or the mother’s death.
b) What could have been the poet’s childhood fears? I think the poet’s childhood fear was that she would lose her mother or be separated from her and that death would consume her mother. c) Did the poet share her thoughts with her mother?
The poet did not share her fears and agony with her mother. She only bid good bye to her with the hope of seeing her soon.
d) Why do you think, the poet did not share her thoughts with her mother? I think the poet did not share her thoughts with her mother because they were caused by her fear of the unknown. Sharing them with the mother would have worried the frail old woman to death.
e) Why did the poet only ‘smile’? The poet only smiled to hide her guilt, anxiety and fear of the unknown. Also, she wanted to bid a cheerful farewell to her mother before boarding the flight, giving a hollow promise wrapped in a
QUESTION AND ANSWERS
1. What is the kind of pain and ache that the poet feels? When the poet looks at her mother’s face she found that it had become pale and withered.she
realized that her mother was at the edge of her life and her end was near. The thought that her mother would be soon separated form her caused unbearable pain and ache in the poet’s heart.
2 What does the poet do to shrug off the painful thought of her mother’s approaching end? To get rid of the painful thought her mother‘s nearing end ,the poet shifter her attention from her mother’s pale face to the sprinting trees and the happy children spilling out of their house.
- Why does the poet draw the image of sprinting trees and merry children? Sprinting trees and merry children bursting out from the doors suggest fresh life and warm energy, vitality , youthfulness, spirit etc.. The poet draws this image to strikes a scene of contrast with the pale, dull and withered face of the mother at the declining stage of her health. .
- Why have the trees been described as sprinting?
- ans ;The poet was driving in a car along with her mother. Her movement created the visionary, illusion of the trees outside appeared to be sprinting past.
- Why has the mother been compared to the late winter’s moon?
- ans ;The late winter moon lacks luster. The mothers face was pale and withered. Moreover, the late winter moon suggests the end of season and mother too is nearing the end of her life, therefore the poet compares her with the late winter’s moon.
- What is the ‘familiar ache’?
The fear of losing her mother has tortured the poet from her very childhood because she had been intimately bound up with her. Therefore this ache is familiar to her.
- What do the parting words of the poet and her smile signify
- ans ; The parting words of the poet reflect the poet’s pain , frustration, guilt andhelplessness . But she wears a smile on her face to mask her pain and to give hope, happiness and reassurance to her