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My Mother at Sixty-Six Summary
By- Kamala Das
‘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.
My Mother at Sixty-Six Summary (2) :
The poetess, Kamala Das, is on her way to the airport at Cochin, accompanied by her old mother. Suddenly, she realises that her mother has grown old. Her face appears ashen like that of a corpse. This thought disturbs her as it makes her realise the fact of her mother’s approaching death. As a daughter, the very thought of losing her mother disturbs her and in order to drive away her worrying thoughts, she starts looking out at the trees which appear to be sprinting as she drives a car.
She also sees young children rushing out of their homes to play outside. This reminds her of youth and beauty. On the contrary, her mother is ageing. She has become old and is moving towards death. This fills her with a feeling of insecurity. In contrast to the young children and green trees, the mother has lost her youth and charm and has become pale like the winter’s moon.
The poetess feels the same old pain and fear of her childhood as she bids goodbye to her mother at the airport but she hides all such emotions with a smile which consoles her mother that she would return soon. so, ever when the poetess herself is full of fear of old age, her smile gives her mother the hope of survival.