My Mother at Sixty-Six
by Kamala Das
Complete explanation and answers for the poetry ‘My Mother at Sixty-Six’ included in the CBSE Class 12 English book ‘Flamingo’
Driving from my parent’s
home to Cochin last Friday
morning, I saw my mother,
doze, open mouthed, her face
ashen like that
of a corpse and realized with pain
that she was as old as she
looked but soon
put that thought away, and
looked out at Young
Trees sprinting, the merry children spilling
out of their homes, 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 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
About the poet
Kamala Das (1934—2009) is one of the most unconventional, free-spirited, and non-conformist poets of Kerala. In India’s literary sky, she dazzles like a bright star inspiring fearlessness and defiance among young writers who venture to write on atypical ideas.
All her life, Kamala courted controversy knowingly, because she had a soul that dogmas and traditions couldn’t fetter. Her literary genius and love for poetry became known when she was quite young. Her marriage at the age of just fifteen to a bank officer was beset with marital disharmony. Her childhood had not been very enjoyable. The marriage aggravated her agony. But, she found an escape through her pen. She wrote short stories and poems both in Malayalam and English. For some time she wrote as a columnist on diverse topics, but her main focus was the suffering of women, childcare woes, and the burden of orthodoxy which made her a rebel.
For her defiant, non-conformist writing, she invited derision and wrath from the feudalistic Brahmin class, but the diatribes made her more defiant. At the age of 65, she converted to Islam, assuming the name Kamala Surayya.
She many awards from inside India and abroad. Many a times, she went to Europe on invitation to read her poems in front of lovers of literature. In frankness, and fearlessnessness, there are no Indian writer of equal stature.
This poem ‘My mother at sixty six is one of her best short poems that exudes empathy and love.
Undoubtedly, Kamala loved her old mother very much. On one occasion, she was driving the car with her mother seated by the side. She was on her way to the Cochin airport. It was a Friday. Sometime into the drive, Kamala looked sideways at her mother’s face. She had dozed off, with her mouth half open. The cares and tribulations of her life had made her face pallid and wrinkled. The exuberance of youth had long deserted her. The face bore the scars of the suffering most women routinely and silently undergo in Indian society. Kamala was sad to see her mother’s face. A torrent of emotions swept through her mind.
To distract herself from this gloomy cloud, she took her eyes off her. The fleeting images of the trees passing by, and the group of young lively children coming out of their homes soothed her mind.
Soon she reached the airport, went passed the security check, and waved goodbye to her. Her mother’s pale lifeless face continued to torment Kamala, but she wanted to fight this gloom by smiling and smiling. She knew smile is the best panacea for despondency and darkness.
It was the indomitable Kamala.
Questions and Answers
Q1. What is the ………….. The poet is saddened to see the way her mother, in her late sixties, had been weighed down by the burden of raising a family. She knows, her mother has borne the hardship silently. This realization makes the poet even more sad.
Q2. Why are the young trees… When the car travels, it leaves the trees behind. It creates an impression that the trees are sprinting backward.
Q3. Why has the poet … The sight of boisterous children is always pleasant. When they noisily come out of their homes, it becomes all the more joyful. It soothes a frayed mind naturally.
Q4. Why has the mother been … In late winter, the moon loses its shine and charm. It looks dull. In this poem, the mother has lost her youthful appeal, and her face looks so gloomy and tired.
Q5. What do the parting words .. The parting words are spoken very warmly, from the depth of the poet’s heart. One can’t fight gloom with more gloom. Optimism and visible show of happiness are the cures for chronic unhappiness. So, the poet wants to be optimistic by keeping on smiling.
Readers are invited to send in their questions for model answers.