Get here the summary, questions, answers, textbook solutions, extras, and pdf of the poem “My Mother at Sixty-six” by Kamala Das of Assam Board (AHSEC / SEBA) Class 12 English textbook. However, the given notes/solutions should only be used for references and should be modified/changed according to needs.
Summary: Ageing is a significant stage in human existence. A person enters his or her childhood, or youth when he or she is full of vitality and aspirations of living in luxury. He eventually reaches old age and meets his death. As people age, their relationships get stronger in all facets of life to the point that they can no longer tolerate being apart.
The poet shares a personal experience in this poem. She depicts the spectacular separation of a mother and a daughter and highlights a universal paradox of human connections. She has successfully captured practically all of the feelings that a daughter gets when saying goodbye to her cherished mother. There are moments when we have genuine sympathy for someone but fail to communicate it.
The poet remembers returning to Cochin after a weeklong vacation at her parents’ home. She was driving that morning on a Friday while her mother sat in the front passenger seat. In the front seat, the poet’s mother was dozing off with her lips slightly open. Her mother’s pale face reminded her of the almost completely white faces of corpses. When her mother’s appearance finally caught up to her age, she realised that her mother was no longer young. The poet found it very difficult to accept this and was determined to divert her attention to anything else. The poet chose to glance out the windows of the car she was driving while turning away from her elderly mother.
She looked outside at the trees the car was driving past. As a result of relative speed, the poet felt as though every tree she could see was speeding by her as the car was travelling so quickly. If they had the energy to travel that quickly, it appeared that those trees were pretty young. The children, who were bursting with anticipation to be outside as they emerged from their homes, caught the poet’s attention as well. The poet arrived at the airport after passing all of these landmarks. Her attention was diverted by the scenery up until that point. But following the security check, she was standing close to her mother when she once more happened to see the elderly woman. Her mother looked just as pale and lifeless as before.
The poet makes a comparison between her mother’s face and the sight of the moon on a cold night. This prompted her to go back to the childhood worry she had the most: the fear that her mother would pass away. She had experienced this terror many times before, and it was again returning. She refrained from letting her dread show on her face, though. She chose to put on a brave face instead and waved goodbye to her mother. While she was in immense pain, she reassured her mother that they would be meeting each other again soon while maintaining a smile.
Textual questions and answers
1. What is the kind of pain and ache that the poet feels?
Answer: As she watches her mother doze off beside her in the car, the poet is saddened by the realisation that she has grown so old. Since she was a child, she has been terrified of losing her mother. Her heart breaks at the prospect of being separated from her mother and the irreversible loss that her death would bring. The poet finds it difficult to contemplate, despite the fact that it is unavoidable.
2. Why are the young trees described as ‘sprinting’?
Answer: When we are travelling at high speeds, it is common for stationary objects to appear to move. The poet was behind the wheel, staring out the window. The trees on the side of the road appeared to be moving in the opposite direction because the car was moving in one direction. In stark contrast to her mother’s pale and elderly figure, the young green trees appeared to be running.
3. Why has the poet brought in the image of the merry children ‘spilling out of their homes’?
Answer: Through contrast, the image of happy children creates a poetic effect. Children are a symbol of life, merriment, vitality, and happiness. The poet’s mother represents ageing, frailty, and decay, and this contrast brings the painful realisation that time was drawing nearer to an unavoidable loss in the daughter’s life.
4. Why has the mother been compared to the late winter’s moon’?
Answer: It’s a great analogy that immediately conjures up images of something dwindling, drab, and feeble. In late winter, the moon appears hazy, dim, and obscure, much like the poet’s mother’s ashen face, which has lost its brightness and strength.
5. What do the parting words of the poet and her smile signify?
Answer: The poet’s fear, as well as her conscious effort to hide it behind a smile, is reflected in the parting words: “See you soon, Amma.’ It’s a promise she makes to herself as well as her mother. It also symbolises her desire to see her mother again.
Additional/extra questions and answers/solutions
1. In the poem “My Mother at Sixty-six,” how does the poet convey the nuance of human relationships?
Answer: The poet Kamala Das depicts a close relationship between a mother and a daughter in the poem ‘My Mother at Sixty-six’ with such sensitivity that the reader is moved by similar emotions. The poem is written in one continuous sentence and depicts a single thread of thought that is interspersed with sights and sounds from the real world and connects them to the main idea of old age and death. At the airport, the poet is about to part ways with her elderly mother. The agonising thought of losing her mother to death grips her heart, but she suppresses it. The fear in her heart is concealed by a smile on her face, and she departs with the assurance that she will see her mother again.
2. What images does the poet use to represent her mother’s advancing age in the poem My Mother at Sixty-six?
Answer: The use of images in the poem My Mother at Sixty-Six is so effective that we can see the scene as clearly as the poet did. Her pale face is described as “ashen like a corpse,” and her appearance as “a late winter’s moon.” To emphasise the contrast, she describes the younger side of life as “young trees sprinting” and “merry children spilling out, of their homes,” emphasising the image of activity as opposed to her mother’s frail passivity.
3. How does the poet convey the contrast between the worlds inside and outside the car?
Answer: Her mother, pale and weak, was seated beside the poet in the car, slowly approaching death. Disturbed by the thought, the poet turned to look out the window, which provided a contrast in a picture of life and youth. The trees were young and seemed to flee at a speed as little children joyfully ran out of their homes.
12. What does the poet observe taking place outside?
Answer: The poet is profoundly distressed by the aged mother who is sitting next to her as they travel to the airport in Cochin. The poet glances outside to distract himself from that distressing notion and is enchanted by the young trees that appear to be moving quickly and the happy kids leaving their houses. They contrast with her ailing mother, who is seated next to her in the car.
13. What is the poet’s childhood phobia, and why does she get an aching from somewhere familiar?
Answer: Kamala Das might have worried about losing her mother in some way as a young child. She noticed her mother asleep with her lips open and looking as lifeless as a corpse when she travelled to the airport in Cochin with her. The poet’s fear of losing her from her childhood came back, and her heart was wrenched with grief. She appeared fragile and extremely old.
14. Give a brief description of the character of the daughter in the poem My Mother at Sixty-six.
Answer: We get to read about Das’s emotions in the poem “My Mother at Sixty-six” from the perspective of a daughter. She adores her mother and always wants to be close to her. She is, however, distressed to see her mother’s pale, depressed, and morbid face while she is driving to the airport in Cochin. The poet had a sudden impression that her mother appeared to be a corpse with its jaws open and nodding. She gets a vague feeling that her mother won’t survive very long because she is becoming older and losing her vitality. She is so concerned by the concept that she looks outside at the trees and the happy children playing and tries to push the thought itself away.
She says goodbye to her mother and hopes to see her again soon as they split ways. She just kept smiling after that, since she felt so powerless and obligated to be unable to help her mother. She could only smile, knowing how much the daughter’s grin meant to her mother as well.
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