My Mother at Sixty Six by Kamala Das – Important Questions

In this poem, ‘My Mother at Sixty six’ poet comments on the feelings of pain and ache one feels for the ageing parents. A single thread of thought ruins through out the poem. There are some observations of the real world around, but they are connected with the main idea. The whole poem is in a single sentence, punctuated by commas.

Important Questions with Answers

Q. Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow.

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 realised with pain
that she was as old as she looked …”

  1. Name the poem and the poet.
    The poem’s name is ‘My Mother at Sixty-six’ composed by Kamala Das.
  2. Where was she driving to?
    The poet was driving from her parents’ home to Cochin airport on a Friday morning.
  3. How did her mother look like? Why was her mother looking like that of a corpse face?
    Her mother looked sick and drowsy. Her face was lifeless. She was ash-coloured like that of a dead body.
  4. What did she notice about her mother?
    The poet noticed that her mother was sleeping with her mouth open.

Q. What is the kind of pain and the ache that the poet feels?

Ans. The poet feels the pain and ache which is born out of the fear of losing one’s mother. As a child, the poet feared being separated from her mother. Now when the mother is old and weak, the poetess feels the same of fear again.

Q. Why are the young trees described as ‘sprinting’?

Ans. The poet is in the car. As she looks out of the window, she feels the trees in the distance are racing away. The young trees remind the poetess of her youngers years which have run by very quickly. They also remind her of the children who run happily while the old people like her mother cannot move.

Q. Why has the poet brought in the image of the merry children ‘spilling out of their homes’?

Ans. The merry children stand as a contrast to the old mother sitting beside the poetess. The mother’s ashen face is a contrast to the rosy faces of the children. The young children are merry but the old faces are sad. Yet both of them are a part of life.

Q. Why has the mother been compared to the ‘late winter’s moon’?

Ans. Mother has been compared to the late winter’s moon because the moon in this seas looks weak and cold. Like an old person, it has lost the charm which it has in the summer season. In summer, the same moon looks bright like a merry child.

Q. What do the parting words of the poet and her smile signify?

Ans. The parting words and the smile of the poetess signify her failure with the words. She feels the pain born out of the fear of separation from her mother who is so old and weak.

Q. Bring out the poetic devices used in the poem?

Ans. The poem captures the complex subtlety of human relationship in a texture of symbols, imagery, and other poetic devices. The entire poem is structured in the frame of a single sentence, punctuated by commas. It indicates a single string of thought that runs throughout the poem. There is a single simile in the explicit comparison of her mother’s ashen face to that of corpse. We find another simile in comparison between the pale visage of her mother and the late winters moon, as her face has lost its brightness.

There is the use of personification in the line “Tress sprinting”, where tree are attributed with the quality of running swiftly, for enhancing the poetic effect. The poet has used alliteration in the use of the words, ‘familiar’, ‘fear’ with the repetition of the consonant sound (f). It also suggests the poet’s familiarity with her childhood fear and sorrow of losing her mother to death.

Q. Give the theme of Kamla Das’ poem ‘My Mother at Sixty Six’?

Ans. The mother of the poet is not yet very old. She is sixty six. But due to her illness or so, she looks pale and ash colored like a dead body. The poet is in a hurry to catch a flight. She is deeply concerned about her aged murder. She is not sure of finding her alive on her next visit. She looks out of the car at the young trees and merry children. By contrast, the sight of the mother looks critical. She casts a last look at her at the airport. In order to cheer up the old mother, she smiles and smiles to hide her own fear and promises to see the old woman again.

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