My Mother At Sixty Six - Summary

Kamala Das (1934) was born in Malabar, Kerala. She is recognised as one of India’s foremost poets. Her works are known for their originality, versatility and the indigenous flavour of the soil. Kamala Das has published many novels and short stories in English and Malayalam under the name ‘Madhavikutty’. Some of her works in English include the novel Alphabet of Lust (1977), a collection of short stories Padmavati the Harlot and Other Stories (1992), in addition to five books of poetry. She is a sensitive writer who captures the complex subtleties of human relationships in lyrical idiom, My Mother at Sixty-six is an example.

The poem begins with the poetess in a taxi while going to the Cochin Airport after staying at her parents’ house on a visit. Since it was a long drive, her mother fell asleep, open mouthed, on the way. She looked at her and saw that due to her old age, her face had become as pale and white as ashes (ashen). Looking at her, she felt an uneasy feeling of impending loss coming over her as she realized that her mother is old and at that age, anything can happen.
But, soon, she put that sad thought out of her mind and started looking out of the window. She noticed young trees while passing by and it seemed to her as if the car was standing still and the trees were sprinting by. She noticed a number of young children coming out of their homes as the sun was easing up. They were happy to have some time to enjoy. The youth of the trees and the children was in complete contrast to the old age of her mother and the happiness of the children lay exactly opposite to her sadness.
Upon reaching the airport and passing through the security check, she turned to look at her mother once before leaving and found her face to be as pale as “a late winter’s moon”. She again felt the fear that she had felt quite often since her childhood; the fear of losing her mother. When people get old, they die someday and that was the fear she felt upon looking at her. But, she hid all that fear and said to her mother that she would see her soon, on her next visit. And, she smiled, and smiled, and smiled, to hid her fear and to give comfort to herself and to her mother.


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