My Mother at Sixty – Six

My Mother At Sixty Six

By Kamala Das

About Kamala Das

Kamala Das is an Indian writer in English. She wrote lots of confessional poems expressing the experiences of being an Indian woman. The poet wrote under the pen-name, Madhavikutty. Some of her popular works include ‘An Introduction,’ ‘A Hot Noon in Malabar,’ and ‘My Grandmother’s House’. She writes in a matter-of-fact tone and her honesty and boldness in expressing her thoughts often keep her critics and readers spell-bound. Kamala Das has written poems, short stories, memoirs, and novels as well. “The Times” had called her the Mother of Modern English Indian Poetry.

Introduction: ‘My Mother at Sixty-Six’ is an emotional poem that describes a daughter’s feelings toward her mother. Kamala Das has written this poem. She is an acclaimed Indian woman writer in English. She expresses her concern over her mother’s aging in this poem. Through the lines of this poem, the poet has poured her fear of losing her mother as a daughter. This is a confessional poem that presents the common feelings daughters have for their mothers. In this regard, this poem is a representational work.


‘My Mother at Sixty-Six’ is a poem that confesses a daughter’s fear of losing her mother. Firstly, the daughter, that is the poet, is surprised to realize that her mother is aging. Secondly, she notices how the rest of the world appears young and energetic. This is in contrast to her mother who continues to age. Thirdly, the poet expresses her apprehension over losing her mother if the old woman dies. Finally, the poet says how she hides her true feelings and smiles outwardly. She wishes to show her love for her mother.

The poet is the confessor of feelings in this poem. She describes her feelings for her mother while traveling in a car. It is during one of her visits to her mother’s place. The poet looks at her mother’s face and realizes that her mother had grown old. She is disturbed by the fact that her mother may soon die of old age. She becomes emotional and tries to distract herself by looking out at the passing scenery. The poet records the contrasting nature of the scenery: there are young trees and playing children. They represent the freshness and youth of what is on earth, while her mother looks old and frail.

In the final part of the poem, the poet expresses her fear of losing her mother to death. Even as a young girl, the poet had similar feelings and fears. She was so afraid of losing her mother that she would never leave her for a moment. The poet, even as a grown-up daughter, experiences a similar emotion. However, she can hide her fears. She smiles at her mother. She tries to express her love and affection to her aging mother, as the poet bids goodbye.

Detailed Analysis of the poem

Stanza -1

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….

Explanation – In this first stanza, the poetess is describing about her old mother. The poetess remembers the day when driving her car .she was going to Cochin airport. Her mother was sitting beside her in the car . The mother was going to see the poetess. But on the way when the poetess turned to look at her mother, she was dozing (sleeping) and her mouth was opened. And her face was seeming as pale as a Corpse (dead person). Suddenly a painful and sorrowful thought came into the mind of the poetess. She realized that her mother has grown very old and she’s not going to live long.

Stanza -2.

….but soon

put that thought away, and looked out at Young

Trees sprinting, the merry children spilling

out of their homes, but after the airport’s

security check, standing a few yards

away, I looked again at her,

Explanation – The poetess immediately put that painful thought away from her mind and from the window of the car, she looked out at young trees alongside the road. Which seemed running very fast. And she also looked like happy children who were coming and running out of their houses in large numbers. Finally, the poetess reached the airport and she had to go through a security check there. Her mother was standing a few yards away from her. At that point once again she looked at her mother. It must be remembered that while coming in the car, the poetess and her mother did not speak a single word to each other. Still, she was staring at her mother from a distance. It is a thoughtful fact that what kind of attitude the modern youths have towards their old aged beloved one.

Stanza – 3

………..wan, pale

As a late winter’s moon and felt that old

familiar ache, my childhood’s fear ,

but all I said was, see you soon, Amma,

all I did was smile and smile and smile……

Explanation – After Security Check, the poetess looked at her mother who was standing a few yards away from her. She was looking weak and pale. Her face was looking just like a yellowing moon of the late winter season. The poetess felt some old familiar pain and fear. It was the same as she had felt in her childhood but she could not speak a single word to her mother. The only words she could speak were “See you soon Amma”. And she (poetess) smiled and smiled and smiled. These words highlight that the youths of Modern times have deep sympathy for their old aged beloved ones. But they are unable to express their sympathy properly. This is the end of the explanation of the poem “My Mother At Sixty Six”.

My Mother at Sixty – Six


My Mother at Sixty Six

By Kamala Das

My Mother at Sixty-Six Poem Introduction

She talks about her mother in the poem "My Mother at Sixty-Six." This poem is about the mother-daughter relationship, and the poet expresses her love for her mother. It depicts a child's dilemma as she witnesses her mother's ageing. The poet's heart was broken by the mother's lifeless and pale face.  The poet's mother appeared to be lost in her own world at the age of 66.

My Mother at Sixty-Six Poem Summary

This is a heartfelt poem written by Indian poet Kamla Das, who went by the pen name 'Madhavikutty.' In this poem, she expresses her love and attachment to her ageing mother. The poet once went to see her mother. She was on her way back to the airport to catch a flight back to Cochin. She turned to face her mother, who was sitting beside her in the car. Her mother had dozed off to sleep, and her ageing face had turned a smoky ash colour. Her mouth was open, and she resembled a corpse. The poet realised her mother was getting old. She felt both her pain and sympathy for her. Her mother required love, affection, and attention.

To break free from the gloom, the poet shifted her gaze and looked out the car window. She noticed some young trees passing by. Little kids were running out of their homes and into the playgrounds. These things contrasted with her mother's ageing face. They represented energy, life, and happiness. As they reached the airport and the poet was about to board the plane, she cast one last glance at her mother. Her mother appeared frail and pale, much like the moon in the winter, which appears to have lost all strength. The poet experienced the pain and fear of losing her mother.

 She was returned to her childhood, when she was terrified of losing her mother. She couldn't stand being separated from her mother even for a few seconds as a child. Her mother was about to die, and she would be without her for the rest of her life. The poet didn't express her emotions. She smiled and said, "See you soon, Amma," because she wished for her mother's life so that they could meet again.

My Mother at Sixty-Six Poem Explanation

My Mother at Sixty-Six:

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, and

looked out at Young

Trees sprinting, the merry children spilling

out of their homes, but after the airport’s

security check, standing a few yards

away, I looked again at her, wan, pale

as a late winter’s moon and felt that old

familiar ache, my childhood’s fear,

but all I said was, see you soon, Amma,

all I did was smile and smile and


  • doze: a short, light sleep
  • ashen: very pale, like ash.
  • corpse: a dead body.
  • sprinting: here, shooting out of the ground.
  • spilling: here, to move out in great numbers.
  • wan: unnaturally pale, as from physical or emotional distress.
  • ache: pain.

Firstly, while on her way to the Cochin airport with her elderly mother sitting beside her, the poet takes a close look at her and presents us with her image.

She compares her to a corpse. (similie is a figure of speech used to compare her mother's face to that of a corpse.) She is struck by the horror and pain of losing her mother as she looks at her mother's pale and pallid face. The mother, with her groggy expression and open mouth, is compared to a corpse. The poet depicts the typical love and affection that exists in a mother-daughter relationship here. The poet is distressed and shifts her focus away from the car in order to expel her negative emotions. She alters her gloomy demeanour. Outside the window, there is a flurry of new life and energy. The sprinting trees alongside the joyfully playing children represent life, youth, and vitality. The poet is reminded of her own childhood, when her mother was young, whereas now she is surrounded by the fear of losing her, which has made her insecure. She is on her way to the airport to catch a flight. It represents departure and separation, which causes melancholy. As she waves goodbye to her mother, she is struck by the image of an old, wan, worn-out mother in her golden years. Again, a simile is used to compare her mother to a late winter moon, the light of which is obscured by fog and mist. Her personality has been influenced by the fact that she appears to be getting older.

The poet is experiencing the agony of separation after leaving her mother and moving away. Her childhood fear of losing her mother, which she believes was temporary at the time but may now be permanent as she may die of old age, is also haunting her. She is so pained that it is natural for her to cry but keeping a brave front she hides her tears and smiles. "See you soon, Amma," she says as she bids farewell to her mother, keeping her hope of seeing her alive. She hides her sorrow because she does not want to create a painful environment for her mother, and she tells her that just as she is happy and enjoying her life, her mother should be happy and enjoying her life as well.

(The poem revolves around the theme of ageing and the fear that comes with loss and separation. It is a sentimental account of the mother's impending death as seen through the daughter's eyes. The seemingly brief poem explores the filial bond between mother and daughter against a backdrop of nostalgia and fear. Nostalgia for the past (time spent with the mother) and anxiety about the future without her.) It's a short poem with no full stops; it's more like a long sentence with an overflowing thought process. The poet uses comparison and contrast, simile, and repetition.

About the Poet

Kamala Das, Muslim name Kamala Surayya, Malayalam pen name Madhavikutty, (born March 31, 1934, Thrissur, Malabar Coast [now in Kerala], British India—died May 31, 2009, Pune, India), Indian author who wrote openly and honestly about female sexual desire and the experience of being an Indian woman. Das belonged to a generation of Indian writers whose work focused on personal rather than colonial experiences, and her short stories, poetry, memoirs, and essays earned her both respect and notoriety. Das wrote in both English (mostly poetry) and Malayalam, the southern Indian language, under the pen name Madhavikutty.