After a painstaking search, I got the name and a few lines of the Kamala Das poem I remembered during a conversation with a friend. It's called "Middle Age". Sadly, I cannot find the whole poem online. My professor had presented it brilliantly as the difference between a girl and a boy in how much they understand the mother, adding an additional perspective to its beauty. She explained every line in the poem as if the poet wished he child was a girl - maybe the professor was bringing in her personal reading here. The poem has so much emotion that it makes me sad. This is one poem that had certainly enhanced my view of the world, and my love for poetry (and established Kamala Das in indelible ink in my mind - whatever critics might talk of her). The lines I got online are thus (hopefully I still have the text at home, and will be able to find out the entire poem):
Middle age is when your children are no longer
Friends but critics, stern of face and severe with
(lines comparing the child's growth to the pupae coming out the cocoon
and memories of reciting jungle stories written in golden ink)
they no longer
Need you except for serving tea and for
(the mother touches books of her child,
weeps a little secretly.)
You have lived
In a dream world all your life, it's time to
wake up, Mother,
You are no longer so young you know
(Symphony : Pg. 26)
Source: Kamala Das: A Critical Spectrum, By Pier Paolo Piciucco - Essay: Suffering and Humiliation in Kamala Das's Poetry , K.V. SURENDRAN (Institute of English and Foreign Languages, Kannur University, Thalassery Campus, Palayad, Thalassery Kannur, Kerala.)
“Middle Age” is a poem which surveys the little, unnoticed pangs of mothers who are already on the “wrong side of the forties.” She begins the poem telling us when a person can be called middle aged.
The situation she describes here is one that is common place and found in every other household. When children grow up estrangement develops and the views or the old generation becomes totally unacceptable to the growing generation. The ultimate result is that the elderly people are made to suffer for no fault of theirs. The modem solution to this problem is nuclear families where the grey haired are mercilessly banished. Even when they get an entry to the households their role is limited to providing amenities to the other inmates of the house, that is, the role of a servant.
Certainly it is a life of humiliation and suffering that the middle aged are made to experience. Like a pupa becoming a cocoon and then butterfly, the silent obedient child has all on a sudden become an independent self-asserting personality and the casualty is his own mother. The poet's attempt in this poem is to wake up the dreamy middle aged mothers and to prepare them face the ultimate reality shedding the mental torture that has been in store for them.
Kamala Das is a well known Indian poet writing in English. As a writer, she made bold attempts to break the traditional shell of Indian woman with her fiery tone and confessional mode of writing. She takes reader to her confidence and opens her mind before them. In her poem, Middle Age she tells us her feeling as a mother. She tries to bring out the loneliness that she feels at her middle age.
In the opening of the poem, she tells us that one's middle age is when his children become a critic all that he does. At this age the children lashes their tongue without any mercy. They use harsh language towards their parents. This change in their attitude is beautifully compared to the transformation that happens to pupae in a cocoon. The children emerge in harsh adult glory. They do not need their mothers except for serving tea and pressing their dress.
The mothers do not take this change as something very natural. They need the company of their children all the same. They miss their children very badly. In their loneliness, they touch books and other things of their children. They weep a little secretly. They can only dream of the days when they narrated many animals' stories to their children. As they remember those days, they can only cry in their present helplessness. It gives them a realization that they are no longer as young as they used to be. It reminds them that it is the time to wake up from the daydreams.
This poem is written in free verse. It is written in a conversational tone. The rhythm of the poem takes us to a dreamy world of a lonely mother. The visual imagery in the poem like the pupae coming out the cocoon and the jungle stories written in golden ink are very remarkable. The reader gets such a picture in his mind. It also takes us back to our child hood when we used to listen to such stories from our parents.
At the end of the poem, she comes to a realization that things are different in their middle age. This poem can be taken as an effort of the mother to accept the harsh reality in one's life that as the children grow up, the parents grow old. The mother is helpless at the callousness shown by the children. In this poem, Kamala Das portrays the generation gap that happens in the relationship of mothers and children in a touching way. It also reveals her most sensitive heart before the reader.
THREE (lots of word-use errors)
The elegant poem written by the renowned Indian poetess, Kamala Das, speaks of the dismal state of a mother whose love is rejected by her son. She vividly depicts the loneliness and estrangement of middle aged people through the thoughts of a poor mother whose full-fledged intimacy and motherhood are neglected by her son.
In the middle age, the children became critical and unfriendly and use harsh words to their parents. Here, the mother is very anxious and alert about her son. But being in a fantasy world,the son finds no importance for his mother, but for serving hot tea and pressing his clothes regularly. At the same time, the mother wants her child to be beside her in each moment as the life's turns make her more dependent on her son. The son grows up into an individual with a self-sustaining personality, and starts breaking the affectionate hearts. The mother cannot scold and hug the son freely, instead she herself wraps all her pain within her and weeps secretly by touching her son's books and clothes. His adult ego makes him hate all the little pranks once made by the mother. As he grows, he views them all with a deep aversion and hatred.
The short and excruciating poem of Kamala Das touched my heart deeply. As I go through the lines, I was able to feel the doldrums of the middle age. To a woman, motherhood is a part of her feminine self that yearns for love and its fulfillment. But the harsh realities of adolescence overturns it without any remorse. Once I finished reading the poem, I could hear the cry of a weeping heart of a mother.