My Mother at Sixty-six Kamala Das An Elementary School Classroom in a Slum Stephen Spender Keeping Quiet Pablo Neruda A Thing of Beauty John Keats A Roadside Stand Robert Frost Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers Adrienne Rich 1 My Mother at Sixty-six About the poet 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. Before you read Ageing is a natural process; have you ever thought what our elderly parents expect from us? 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 realised 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 smile...... sprinting : short fast race, running wan : colourless Think it out 1. What is the kind of pain and ache that the poet feels? 2. Why are the young trees described as ‘sprinting’? 3. Why has the poet brought in the image of the merry children ‘spilling out of their homes’? 4. Why has the mother been compared to the ‘late winter’s moon’? 5. What do the parting words of the poet and her smile signify? Notice that the whole poem is in a single sentence, punctuated by commas. It indicates a single thread of thought interspersed with observations of the real world around and the way these are connected to the main idea. My Mother at Sixty-six/91

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3

Keeping Quiet


About the Poet

Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) is the pen name of Neftali Ricardo Reyes Basoalto who was born in the town of Parral in Chile. Neruda’s poems are full of easily understood images which make them no less beautiful. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in the year 1971. In this poem Neruda talks about the necessity of quiet introspection and creating a feeling of mutual understanding among human beings.

Before you read

What does the title of the poem suggest to you? What do you think the poem is about?

Now we will count to twelve and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the Earth let’s not speak in any language, let’s stop for one second,and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment without rush, without engines, we would all be together in a sudden strangeness.

Fishermen in the cold sea would not harm whales and the man gathering salt would look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars, wars with gas, wars with fire, victory with no survivors, would put on clean clothes and walk about with their brothers in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused with total inactivity. Life is what it is about; I want no truck with death. If we were not so single-minded about keeping our lives moving, and for once could do nothing, perhaps a huge silence might interrupt this sadness of never understanding ourselves and of threatening ourselves with death.

Perhaps the Earth can teach us as when everything seems dead and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve and you keep quiet and I will go.

to have no truck with : to refuse to associate or deal with, to refuse to tolerate something


Think it out

1. What will counting upto twelve and keeping still help us achieve?

2. Do you think the poet advocates total inactivity and death?

3. What is the ‘sadness’ that the poet refers to in the poem?

4. What symbol from Nature does the poet invoke to say that there

can be life under apparent stillness?

Try this out

Choose a quiet corner and keep still physically and mentally for about five minutes. Do you feel any change in your state of mind?

Notice the differing line lengths of the stanzas and the shift in thought from stanza to stanza.

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