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My Mother at Sixty Six - CBSE Class 12 NCERT English Reader Flamingo Poem Explanation, Summary, Difficult words

CBSE Class 12 English Poem - My Mother at Sixty Six Explanation Notes

My Mother at Sixty Six - CBSE Class 12 English Reader (Flamingo) Poem 1- Detailed explanation of the Poem along with meanings of difficult words. Also, the explanation is followed by a Summary of the poem and literary devices used.  All the exercises and Question and Answers given at the back of the lesson have been covered.





Class 12 English Poem 1 - My Mother at Sixty Six

by Kamala Das

About Poet

kamala das


Kamala Das (1934-2009) 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. She has published many novels and short stories. She wrote under the pen name “Madhavi Kutty”.




Introduction to the lesson

My mother at sixty six is written by Kamala Das who is famous for capturing complexities of human relationships. The poem my mother at sixty six is one of the finest examples of the human bonding, especially that of a mother and daughter. It describes the pain and fear of the poet - of losing her mother due to harsh reality of life which is death.

Summary of the poem

The poet, in this poem describes her mother. She says that she is sixty six years old and looks very weak and old. When the poet was returning from her parent’s home and was on the way to the airport, her mother was accompanying her. She noticed her mother who was sitting with her at the back seat of the car. She was sleeping with her mouth wide open, her face was the colour of ash. It looked lifeless. This very thought disturbed her so much that she diverted her mind and looked outside the car. She saw the trees by the roadside which seemed to be running. There were young children running into the playground. All this symbolised life, energy and happiness in contrast to her mother’s appearance. When she reached the airport, she again looked at her ailing mother who looked old and dull like the weak moon in the winter season. The poet was surrounded by the same fear that she had during her childhood - the fear of losing her mother. She thought that may be this was the last time that she saw her mother alive. Her mother was about to die. But then she tried to come out of the sadness and smiled at her mother. She said that soon she would see her again. The poet wanted to be with her mother again and did not want to lose her.


Poem and explanation

Driving from my parent’s home
To Cochin last Friday morning,

I saw my mother beside me.

my mother

Beside: alongside

The poetess explains that once when she visited her parent’s house in Cochin. It was a Friday when she was driving back to the airport, her mother was sitting beside her at the back of the car. The poet looked at her mother.

Literary Devices:
Assonance: Here we see the use of vowel sound that is ‘o’.(To Cochin last Friday morning)

doze, open mouthed, her face ashen like that
of a corpse and realised with pain

Doze: nap
Ashen: pale
Corpse: dead body

She saw that her mother was sleeping and her mouth was open. She further explains that the colour of her mother’s face was like that of ash. (This means that there was some smoky appearance on her face). She looked like a dead body.

Literary Devices:
Assonance: Use of vowel sound ‘o’,’a’, ‘e’ (doze, open mouthed, her face ashen like that
of a corpse)
Simile: The colour of the mother’s face has been compared to that of a corpse - ashen. use of ‘like’  (her face ashen like that of a corpse)

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,

Spilling: let out
Sprinting: Moving fast

The poetess realized that her mother had grown old. She felt pain for her. But soon she tried to get rid of this sad thought by diverting her thoughts towards the trees outside. The young trees although stationary seemed to be running very fast as though they were sprinting. She also saw children running out of their houses, into the playground. All these things were full of life and energy, contrary to her mother who sat next to her.

Literary Devices:
Consonance: use of the sound ‘s’ and ‘t’
imagery: when the poet say trees sprinting, merry children spilling
Repetition:  Repeated use of ‘looked’

airport girl

but after the airport’s
security check, standing a few yards
away, I looked again at her, wan, pale

Wan: dim, weak
Pale: dull, colourless

The poet continues that when she reached the airport, she finished with the security check and stood a few yards away from her mother. She noticed her mother’s ageing face which looked so dull, weak and 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......


The poet compares her mother to a late winter’s moon as the moon in winters is not shiny and even her mother’s face had also lost her youth and shine. As her mother was getting older and weak.The poet feels the fear of separation just as she used to feel during her childhood. As a child, she could not bear the pain of separating from her mother. But now as her mother has grown old and is about to die, the poet feels that may be this is the last time that she is seeing her mother. She tries to hide her fear. She then says that she would soon see her mother again. She says so because she doesn’t want to lose her mother.

Literary Devices:
Repetition: use of ‘smile’
Rhyme scheme - The poem does not follow any rhyme or rhythm. It has been written in free verse.
Simile: Mother’s face is compared to the late winter’s moon - both are dull and lifeless. use of ‘as’ (as a late winter’s moon).


Question and Answers

Q1. What is the kind of pain and ache that the poet feels?

A1 When the poet sees her ageing mother who is about to die, she felt the pain of losing her. This is similar to the pain which she use to feel if her mother was not near her. She feels that as her mother is growing old and pale, she will die soon and they will get separated. Time and death never spare anyone. Not even the poet’s mother and so, she has to lose her.


Q2. Why are the young trees described as sprinting?

A2. While the poet was on her way to the airport. She saw the trees beside the road which seemed to be running fast as she was travelling in a car. It seemed as if they were sprinting. Here the poet tries to show the difference between her pale and weak mother who looked like a corpse and the trees that were running and were full of life.


Q3. Why has the poet brought in the image of the merry children ‘spilling out of their homes’?

A3. The poet brings in the image of the merry children to show the deep contrast between the joy and happiness of the life which can be seen in the merry children and the passivity of life which can be felt by looking at the ashen face of the old mother who is old and decaying.


Q4. Why has the mother been compared to the ‘late winter’s moon’?

A4. The mother has been compared to the ‘late winter’s moon’ because the moon in the winter season is dim and appears lifeless, it doesn’t look shiny. Similarly, the poet’s mother, due to ageing, has become dull, her colour is similar to that of ash. It looks dull and has lost its youth. She looks like a corpse.


Q5. What do the parting words of the poet and her smile signify?

A5. The poet’s parting words “see you soon, Amma” show the pain and fear of losing her mother. But she smiles and looks at her mother to give her ailing mother assurance that she will meet her soon. Here one can easily see that she is trying to hide her real feelings of pain and fear from her mother and tries to console herself and her mother that they both will be able to see each other again.


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