Poem-1 My Mother at Sixty-Six- Extra Questions and Notes

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Extra Questions, Notes, Assignment and study material for Class 12th as Per CBSE Syllabus

Chapter- 1 English Language and Literature

           Lesson Name- My Mother at Sixty-Six

                                                                                                       By- Kamala Das


About the Author                                               

Kamala Das – A Short Biography

About The Poet

Kamala Surayya (born Kamala) (1934-2009), also known by her one-time pen name Madhavikutty and Kamala Das, was an Indian English poet and litterateur besides being a leading Malayalam author from Kerala, India. Her popularity in Kerala is based chiefly on her short stories and autobiography, while her literature in English, written under the name Kamala Das, is noted for the poems and explicit autobiography. She was also a widely read columnist and wrote on diverse topics including women’s issues, child care and politics among others.

Theme / Central Idea of the Lesson. Analysis of My Mother at Sixty-Six


My Mother at Sixty Six’ captures the fear of the narrator of losing her mother due to declining health and loss of energy which accompanies old age. The poet accepts this reality and is disturbed by her mother’s need for her on one hand and her own duties and responsibilities on the other hand. This helplessness is poignantly brought out in this poem. The emotions experienced by the poet are essentially universal in nature. The fear of losing a loved one is a theme the reader can identify with. Form This poem is in the form of a narrative of fourteen lines written as a single sentence. This is called enjambment. The poem is written in a single sentence punctuated by commas. This highlights the stream of consciousness effect where one thought leads to another.

Significance of the Title – My Mother at Sixty-Six

Appropriateness of the Title

The title is apt as the poem is about the narrator’s realisation that time has flown by and old age has crept up on her mother. The poem revolves around the theme of advancing age, the fear associated with it, and loss and separation.


Ageing is a natural process and it will affect each one of us. The complexity of life is that children are perturbed by the condition of their parents and wish to be with them. However, they have to leave their parents behind and move on with their commitments. The question arises how to strike a balance between looking after the ageing parents and attending to our duties and responsibilities.

Poetic Devices

  • The imagery used in the poem is suggestive of both death and youth. The image of `young trees and merry children’ are a contrast to the mother.
  • The poetic devices used are simile, metaphor, repetition and personification:

Simile — face ashen like a corpse, as a late winter’s moon.

Personification — trees sprinting

Repetition — smile and smile and smile

Metaphor — children spilling

Poetic Devices


  1. Her face ashen like that of a corpse: poet sees mother dozing off with her mouth open, almost like a corpse — it seems to have lost all vitality — the grey colour of ash is usually associated with a dead body – triggers the pain of losing her mother who is close to death.
  2. Wan, pale as a lath winter moon: reinforces the idea that the mother’s face was pale and lifeless like that of a fading winter moon. Winter is symbolic of the last cycle of the season — hence waning moon-mother’s frail health misted by age is indicative of imminent death.

 Poet resorts to escapism to avoid the harsh realities that stare her in the face-dispels the horrifying thoughts by diverting her attention to the images of the young trees and merry children.


Merry children spilling out of their homes: youthful and exuberant, spring of life-contrast to the morbid atmosphere inside the car – the old mother weak, frail, inactive.


 Young trees sprinting – the sprinting movement of the trees rushing past signify youth, life or passage of time. The mother – travelling in the car-lifeless, helpless decayed by age. Her instinctive awareness leads to the familiar ache-painful realization of helplessness (cannot share her fears with her mother-fear stemmed out of unknown-didn’t want to worry her)-fear of separation-that childhood fear-inherent in all children-of losing one’s loved ones-fear of death.


 Smile and smile and smile: emphasis on the fact that she made a desperate effort to cover UP her guilt, anxiety and agonizing thought of her mother’s impending death by putting up a smile to bid her a cheerful adieu.


  • Genre: Poetry (Through Narration)

 The universality of the Theme

The theme of inescapable decay, a presentiment of emotional susceptibility leading to terrible fear of death, separation-isolation. The daughter’s feelings and concern are portrayed in a sensitive manner. One of the many childhood fears that distressed her was the fear of her mother’s death.

Stanza 1

 Poem enumerates:

  1. pain and anguish felt by the poet.
  2. on seeing her ageing mother sitting in the car.
  3. on her way — airport.
  4. dozing — mouth open — visage pale, ashen, lifeless like that of a corpse
  5. dismay — insecurity — triggered childhood fear.

stanza 2

 Escapism-looks outside-car-to-put—dreadful thought away-

  1. contrast between her mother’s weakness and frailty.
  2. blossoming life-exuberance-young trees sprinting-racing past-grim reminder of lapse of time.
  3. Children sprinting-new hope-happiness-youth-poet drifted back to-days of idyllic youth when the mother — young-energetic.
  4. now a grim reminder of lost youth-twilight-inching towards death.

stanza 3

 After security check-standing few yards away

  1. looks – mother’s face.
  2. wan like winter moon – resembles foggy — misty – end of the cycle.
  3. feels a twitch in heart-old familiar ache-childhood fear seizes her.
  4. fear of loss & separation.
  5. beset with the sorrow-insecurity-agonizing thought of mother’s impending death.
  6. bids goodbye-hides fear by smiling-telling ‘see you soon Amma’.
  7. hiding her own grief she smiled and smiled and smiled-assurance.

Short and Simple Summary of the lesson in EnglishMy Mother at Sixty-Six/ Summary in simple Words/ Critical appreciation of the lesson My Mother at Sixty-Six


‘My Mother at Sixty Six’ captures the fear of the narrator of losing her mother due to declining health and loss of energy which accompanies old age. The narrator accepts this reality and is disturbed by her mother’s need for her on the one hand and her own duties and responsibilities on the other hand. This helplessness is poignantly brought out in this poem. The treatment is different as it emphasizes the subtlety of a mother-daughter relationship. The tone is reflective and the mood is one of resignation and acceptance.

In the poem, the narrator is driving to the airport. The mother is with her. She realizes that her mother is old when the latter dozes off. The mother is pale and looks like a corpse. When the mother wakes up she says nothing and the narrator is pained on having to leave her frail and old mother behind.

Kamala Das has beautifully balanced the contrast between old age and childhood or youth in the poem. Old age is shown as an ashen face, a corpse. This is contrasted with words and ideas expressing vitality, energy and movement. For example, ‘Trees sprinting’ and `children spilling out’. Old age is like a winter’s moon and the mother is pale and wan. The narrator is pained yet with a smile says ‘see you soon’. The separation is not merely of a daughter leaving, but there is pain and a fear of death, a permanent separation, yet the narrator must leave — probably to fulfil her commitments.

The poem ends with a tone of resignation. The narrator accepts reality. She smiles as she parts from her mother. The repetition of the word smile reiterates the facade the daughter puts up for the sake of the mother — the brave act, the cheerful parting — the resignation and finally the acceptance that as she goes away she may never see her mother alive again.

Following is the complete question bank for – My Mother at Sixty-Six

My Mother at Sixty-Six Extra Questions and Answers

MULTIPLE CHOICE QUESTIONS (MCQ — TEST)                                    (1 Mark Each)

  1. Kamala Das was an

(a) Bengali      (b) Punjabi

(c) Keralite      (d) Gujarati

  1. The poet was leaving the house of

(a) her parents            (b) her aunt

(c) her in-laws             (d) her nephew

  1. She was going to

(a) Goa                        (b) Mumbai 

(c) Cochin                    (d) Kolkata

  1. The poet was driving towards the

 (a) railway station      (b) bus-stand 

(c) airport                    (d) metro station

  1. The person in the car, beside the poetess, was,

(a) her aunt                 (b) her niece

(c) her uncle                (d) her mother

  1. The mother of the poetess was

 (a) smiling                  (b) laughing

(c) crying                     (d) dozing off

  1. The poetess says her mother looked pale like a

 (a) corpse                   (b) ghost

(c) malnourished child (d) anaemic person

  1. Kamala Das realized that her mother was very

(a) young                     (b) energetic

(c) old                          (d) ill

  1. She soon put that thought out of her mind and

(a) smiled                    (b) laughed heartily

(c) cried bitterly          (d) looked out of the window

  1. Out of the car window she saw

 (a) cows and buffaloes           (b) pigs and goats

(c) trees sprinting                   (d) people digging

  1. ‘Trees sprinting’ is a poetic device. It is

 (a) personification                 (b) alliteration

(c) repetition                           (d) simile

  1. The narrator also saw children running out of

 (a) their homes                      (b) schools

(c) parks                                  (d) football ground

  1. ‘Children spilling out’ is an

(a) simile                                 (b) metaphor

(c) personification                   (d) transferred epithet

  1. The narrator looked at her mother again after

 (a) the security check            (b) the green signal

(c) after they left the car parking       (d) after the luggage check-in

  1. The narrator again compared her mother too

(a) summer’s sun                    (b) rain clouds

(c) late winter’s moon            (d) trees and plants

  1. Winter’s moon’ is a reference to the mother’s

 (a) old age                              (b) illness

(c) colour of skin                     (d) young age

  1. When the narrator looked at her mother again she felt a pang of

(a) her familiar ache              (b) guilt

(c) heartache                          (d) a headache

  1. The childhood fear was the fear of

 (a) separation from mother (b) exams

(c) medical check-up              (d) dental treatment

  1. She said to her mother

(a) goodbye                             (b) au revoir

(c) good morning go.              (d) see you soon, Amma

  1. 20. What was the expression on the narrator’s face?

(a) smiling face                       (b) angry look

(c) sarcastic expression          (d) frowning face

  1. Smile and smile and smile is

 (a) alliteration                        (b) repetition

(c) simile                                 (d) metaphor

  1. The mood in the last two lines is that of

(a) regret                                (b) guilt

(c) acceptance of reality         (d) anger

  1. The narrator is only using her smile to

 (a) cover up her pain                         (b) make herself happy

(c) to make her mother happy (d) to make her father happy

  1. Kamala Das has successfully drawn comparisons between the

 (a) children and her mother (b) father and mother

 (c) uncle and aunt                  (d) nephew and niece

  1. The image of merry children has been brought out by the narrator in order to

(a) show energy and exuberance of young children

(b) to show the children playing

(c) to show the children playing pranks

 (d) to compare with herself

  1. ‘Trees sprinting’ and ‘merry children spilling’ is an attempt by the poet to create

 (a) suspense               (b) laughter                

(c) visual imagery       (d) chaos

  1. The poem is made up of

 (a) twenty lines          (b) a single sentence

(c) ten stanzas             (d) five stanzas

  1. The theme of the poem is

(a) separation from friends                            (b) separation from relatives

 (c) fear of separation from the mother        (d) love and hatred

  1. The mother’s old age and lack of energy is a depiction of

(a) the poet’s helplessness in old age

(b) joy and fun of old age

(c) bonding of mother with family members

(d) sickness and ill-health

  1. ‘Sprinting’ means

 (a) short fast race                  (b) rowing a boat

(c) playing tricks                     (d) running around trees


1.(c) Keralite                                                       

2.(a) her parents

3.(c) Cochin

4.(c) airport

5.(d) her mother

6. (d) dozing off

7.(a) corpse

8. (c) old

9.(d) looked out of the window

10. (c) trees sprinting

11.(a) personification                                    

12. (a) their homes

13.(b) metaphor

14. (a) the security check

15.(c) late winter’s moon                          

16. (a) old age

17.(a) her familiar ache                           

18. (a) separation from mother

19.(d) See you soon, Amma                          

20. (a) smiling face

21.(b) Repetition                                                

22. (c) acceptance of reality

23.(a) cover up her pain

24. (a) children and her mother

25.(a) show energy and exuberance of young children

26. (c) visual imagery

27. (b) a single sentence                         

28. (c) fear of separation from mother

29. (a) the poet’s helplessness in old age

30. (a) short, fast race

 Read the extracts 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 realized with pain

that she was as old as she looked but soon

put that thought away…

(a)Where was the narrator driving to? Who was sitting beside her?

Ans. The narrator was driving to the airport on her way to Cochin. Her mother was sitting next to her.

(b) What did the narrator notice about her mother?

Ans. The narrator noticed that her mother had dozed off and she was looking old, pale and weak.

(c) Why did her mother’s face look like that of a corpse?

 Ans. The mother looked old, pale and ashen. Since she had dozed off, with her mouth open, the narrator felt she looked like a corpse in that condition.

(d) Find words from the passage which mean (i) Sleep lightly (ii) Dead body

 Ans.(i) Dozed; (ii) Corpse


looked but soon

put that thought away, and

looked out at young

trees sprinting, the merry children spilling

out of their homes

(a)What did the narrator realize? How did she feel?

Ans. The narrator realized that her mother had grown old and would not be around for very long. This thought pained her.

(b) What did she do then?

 Ans. She started looking out of the car window in order to divert her attention to something else.

(c) What did she see outside?

Ans. She saw young trees moving fast as if they were sprinting and also saw young children happily running out of their homes to play.

(d) Find words from the passage which mean (i) Running fast (ii) Happy

Ans.(i) Sprinting; (ii) Merry


but after the airport’s

security check, standing a few yards

away, I looked again at her, wan,


as a late winter’s moon

(a)Name the poem and the poet.

 Ans. The poem is ‘My Mother at Sixty-six’ and the poet is `Kamala Das’.

 (b) What did the narrator do after the security check?

Ans. The narrator stood a few yards away and looked at her mother’s face again.

(c) Why did the narrator compare her mother’s face to a late winter’s moon?

 Ans. The narrator’s mother is old, frail and very pale like the moon in late winter. Hence, the comparison.

 (d) Find words from the extract which mean the same as (i) Colourless (ii) Faded yellowish

Ans. (i) Pale; (ii) Wan


 ….as a late winter’s moon and felt

that old

familiar ache, my childhood’s fear,

(a)What has been compared to a late winter’s moon?

Ans. The narrator’s ageing mother has been compared to the late winter’s moon.

 (b) Why has the comparison been made?

Ans. The narrator’s mother looked old, frail and very pale like the moon in late winter. Hence, the comparison.

(e) Identify the poetic device in the lines.

Ans. The poetic device used in the line ‘as a late winter’s moon’ is a simile.

 (d) What is the ‘familiar ache’ mentioned in these lines?

Ans. It refers to the narrator’s childhood fear of losing her parent or fear of separation from her. 5. but all I said was, see you soon, Amma, all I did was smile and smile and smile…’

(a)Why did the narrator say ‘see you soon, Amma’?

Ans. The narrator said this to reassure her mother and herself that she would see her soon. After the pain of realizing that her mother had grown old, there is a mood of acceptance of reality.

(b) Why did the narrator smile and smile?

Ans. The narrator tries to put up a brave in front of her mother in order to hide her true feelings of pain at seeing the old and weak condition of her mother.

(c) ‘Smile and smile and smile’ is a poetic device. Identify it.

Ans. It is repetition and has been used to emphasize the narrator’s acceptance of the fact that her mother had aged and wouldn’t be around much longer.

 (d) Anima is the fond way of addressing someone. Who is being addressed here?

 Ans. The narrator’s mother is being addressed as ‘Amma’.

Short Answer Type Questions  (30 to 40 words)

SHORT ANSWER TYPE QUESTIONS                                                    

1. What is the kind of pain and ache that the narrator feels?

Ans. The emotional pain and ache that the narrator feels is the realization that her mother has grown old and is frail and pale like a corpse.

  1. Why are the young trees described as sprinting?

Ans. The young trees are personified in the poem. They seem to be running in the opposite direction when seen through the window of the moving car. The movement is juxtaposed with the expression on the mother’s face i.e. ashen like a corpse.

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

Ans. The narrator highlights the helplessness and frailty of old age with the help of contrasts. The listless mother dozes off open-mouthed, whereas the children spill out of their homes signifying movement and energy, which the old people are bereft of. The image of the children spilling out of their homes and trees sprinting provides a contrast to the lack of vitality in the mother.

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

 Ans. The mother has been compared to the late winter’s moon which is dull and shrouded. It symbolizes the ebbing away of life. The moon brings to the narrator’s mind, the night or the approaching end of life.

  1. What do the parting words of the narrator and her smile signify?

Ans. The parting words ‘see you soon Amma’ are used by the narrator to reassure the mother and to infuse optimism in the narrator herself. She accepts the reality of her mother’s approaching death, yet keeps up the facade of a smiling, happy face in order to put up a brave front. It requires a lot of effort and hence the poet has used the poetic device of repetition to emphasize this.

  1. What childhood fears do you think the narrator is referring to in the poem ‘My Mother at Sixty Six’?

Ans. The narrator refers to the fears a child has of losing a parent or getting lost somewhere and thus getting separated from them or even one’s own process of ageing. The narrator felt this kind of fear while looking at her mother’s aged and pale face. She was afraid that she might never see her alive again.

  1. What does the narrator mean by ‘all I did was smile and smile and smile…’?

Ans. The narrator realizes the pain and aches she would feel at separating from her mother. It was her childhood fear that she was experiencing once again. She was trying to hide her true emotions from herself and her mother by smiling and smiling.

  1. What does the narrator’s mother look like? What kind of images has been used to signify her ageing?

Ans. The narrator’s mother is sixty-six years old, looks pale like a corpse. The imagery of death has been created by this comparison.

  1. What were the activities that the narrator saw outside the car window?

Ans. The narrator saw young trees speeding past which seemed as if they were sprinting or running fast. Happy, enthusiastic and energetic children could be seen running out of their homes. They present an image of youth and energy in comparison to the lack of energy of the narrator’s mother.

  1. Why does the narrator look outside? What does she perceive?

Ans. The very thought of separation from her mother upsets and depresses the narrator. She experiences the fear that she may never meet her mother again. In order to drive away such negative thoughts, she looks out of the window and her mind gets diverted when she sees trees moving rapidly and children playing merrily.

  1. What does the narrator do after the security check-up? What does she notice?

Ans. Immediately after the security check-up at the airport, and standing a few yards away from her mother, the narrator observes her mother once again and compares her to the pale, colourless winter’s moon, marking the last phase of her life, i.e., her old age. She is pained to see her in such a condition and the fear of separation returns in her, once again.

  1. What is the narrator’s familiar ache and why does it return?

Ans. The narrator is pained to see her mother old and pale. This arouses the ‘familiar ache’ in her heart which she used to experience in her childhood.

  1. Why does the narrator smile and what does she say while bidding goodbye to her mother?

Ans. The narrator smiles in order to put up a brave front so that her mother does not observe her pained and frightened look. She smiles in order to reassure her mother and says that she would see her again soon.

  1. What poetic devices has the poet used in ‘My Mother at Sixty-six’?

Ans. The poem is rich in imagery. Devices of comparisons and contrasts are also used by the poet to draw out the difference between youth and old age. She describes the mother’s face using similes ‘ashen like a corpse’, and ‘late winter’s moon’. The merry children playing happily are contrasted with the old, weak and pale mother.

  1. What kind of pain does Kamala Das feel in ‘My Mother at Sixty Six’? [Delhi 2017]

 Ans. The pain that Kamala Das feels is the pain of separation from her mother by death. She had also felt it in her childhood.

  1. Why are the youngsters described as springing? (My Mother at Sixty-six) [Delhi 2017]

Ans. The poetess is in the car on her way home to the Cochin airport. She looks outside some young children were running and playing. The poetess seems to contrasts her ageing mother with the youngsters’ full of life.

  1. Why does Kamala Das compare her mother to ‘a pale winter’s moon’? [Delhi 2017]

 Ans. The late winter’s moon is calm and hazy with a dim lustre; it loses its vitality and power. So the poetess compares her mother’s calm, colourless and withered face to the late winter’s moon. She has become weak and was due to her age of sixty-six.

  1. Having looked at her mother, why does Kamala Das look at the young children? [All India 2017]

Ans. While driving her car, the mother was sitting with her. She was dozing with mouth open. Her face was pale and ashen. She looked like a corpse. She was deeply depressed and pain started troubling her mind. In order to put these troubled thoughts away, she looked at the outside world which was full of life, activity and energy. This distraction made her feel happy.

  1. What was Kamala Das’s childhood fear? [All India 2017]

 Ans. After seeing her mother at sixty-six in a pale like a corpse face, her childhood fear of separation from her mother returns. She is deeply pained lest she should not find her mother alive after her return. These thoughts are painful and distressing to her.

  1. In the last line of the poem, ‘My Mother at Sixty-six’, why does the poet use the word ‘smile’ repeatedly? [All India 2017]

Ans. In the last line, the poet repeats the word ‘smile’. This repetition brings out the poet’s need to hide her pain from the mother and even herself and to pretend that all was well and they would meet again. The smile heightens the contrast between her inner pain and outward behaviour.

Important Long/ Detailed Answer Type Questions- to be answered in about 100 -150 words each

Answer the following questions                                                    

 Q1. In today’s fast life, children neglect their ageing parents. What do you think children can do to have an involved and inclusive relationship with their elderly parents?

 Ans. Children are caught up in the own world of stress and ambition. They sometimes ignore their parents. However, if they live in the same city, they should take out some time for them. If they are in another city, the children must ring them up regularly.

Birthdays and festivals are a good time to spend with their elderly parents and make them feel wanted. If children accompany their parents for the medical check-up, the parents will feel reassured. Last but not least, children must let them know how much they are loved. This is the best gift children and grandchildren can endow to the elderly parents.

 Q2. The poem, ‘My Mother At Sixty Six’, brings home the theme that ageing is a natural process and is going to envelop one and all. Comment.

 Ans. The narrator sees her mother dozing looking pale as a corpse. The mother’s pale face arouses the narrator’s childhood fears of losing her mother but she cannot stay on. She accepts her mother’s ageing as a natural process. She hides her pain and guilt under a smile. The narrator delves on the complexities of life in which we have to strike a balance and sometimes part with our dear ones as we have other commitments.

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