Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A K Ramanujan's "Of Mothers, Among Other Things"

A note: I stopped teaching CBSE 5 years ago and I'm out of touch. So I haven't really worked on the explanations and edited them. You might find some of the explanations not up to the mark especially this poem. You will surely find better explanations on the net. One such site recommended by one of the readers which is really good and tailor made for CBSE is http://englishportal12.blogspot.in/?view=mosaic 

I have written an explanation of this poem. i don't know whether it is close to the accepted explanation given by critiics. i'd be happy if i get responses to this.

Of Mothers, Among Other Things

The poet creates a vivid picture of his mother in this poem using images and words that evoke the senses and contrasts her youth with her present state. The first section of the poem portrays her in her youth. The second section deals with her middle age and the final section describes her old age.

The twisted blackbone tree evokes, in the poet, olfactory images of his mother when she was young. The word 'twisted' suggests that the tree is now old like his mother and was probably tended by her when it was a young tree. Her youth is compared to ‘silk’ and a ‘white petal’, both of which are soft and tender and exactly opposite of the old and rough twisted blackbone tree. The sparkle of the diamond studded in her ear rings is compared to needles being splashed. The metaphor pictures mother as beautiful, bright and lively like the splashes of light of the diamonds. He can recall his mother full of energy running from the rain, probably engaged in some work, to the cradles to tend to her children. The rain is pictured as sewing loosely with its lengthy drops the tasselled blackbone tree. The rain symbolises difficulties in life that try to stitch in and contain one’s energy and enthusiasm in life. Yet his mother faced them resolutely. This is indicated by the comparison of her dexterous hands to an eagle's black pink-crinkled feet with talons that are effective and precise.

The second section continues with the comparison but introduces a shift in mother's abilities. One of her fingers (talon) has been crippled by a rat trap, a handicap indicating lessening of efficiency as she got older. The next lines show that the vagaries of life and motherhood have had their effect on her as a middle-aged woman. This is pointed out by the statement that her saris do not cling to her, instead, they hang loose. She has become thin and weak denoted by the metaphor ‘loose feather of a one time wing'
The final stanza begins with the poet stating that he experiences a gut level, raw feeling/taste (‘tongue licks bark in the mouth’) of the incomprehensible 'motherness' of his mother even in her old age when he sees her slowing moving her four still sensible fingers to pick a grain of rice from the kitchen floor. This shows that she is still mentally agile though physically weakened and is in charge of the affairs of the house.

An Interpretation from Mr Doyal
With the "twisted black bone tree" I interpret the similarity that the poet is trying to project between the rough bark of the tree weathered with time but at the same time the life and all that a tree witnesses over its lifetime. It stands still and sees all that happens around it silently and continues to do its own bit...mutely, never complaining … only seeing. So is the situation of a lady particularly in the Indian system of things. The tree of the Indian woman which could have flourished into a beauty has been twisted and hurt over and over again to the extent that it is left with nothing but only its sense of duty and responsibility.
An additional explanation given by Ananya Sethi on the image of the eagle. I'd like to quote her email to me:

I'm Ananya Sethi, a student from your house 'Dhansiri' when you were teaching at the Assam Valley School. I was recently searching for a summary of the poem ''Of Mothers, Among Other Things' and Ifound out the summary wriiten by you. It was excellent except that the summary has very little comparison to the eagle where if one reads the 2nd stanza of the poem, there's reference to the eagle in 2 more lines.
1) 'They hang, loose feather of a onetime wing' . Here we can see a reference of The saris hang loose like the loosened feather of the (old) eagle's wings.
2) 'one talon crippled...' - Here the mother has suffered an injury while working for her family in the same manner the eagle suffers injuries while arranging food for her young ones.
Apart from these lines, i believe that the summary was excellent.
I'm now studing at DPS Guwahati , in the Science stream and I'm appearing for boards this year. I thank you for everything you and Ma'am Patrick (who was our tutor) had done for us while you were at AVS.
An interpretation of the last lines by Kavya:
The poet feels numb and helpless as he sees his mother, now old and frail, trying to pick up the grain of rice with great difficulty, now with only 4 old and sensible (working) fingers. His mouth is dry, parched and feels abrasive like licking a bark. This show how overcome by emotion the poet becomes.

Another interesting interpretation by Shweta:
I would like to add my interpretation of the last few lines. I feel that through those lines the poet is also expressing his guilt. He took his mother for granted as almost all children do. Even the title "Of Mothers, Among Other Things" suggests that we consider our mothers as ordinary as the other things in life. But when the poet sees his old and frail mother bend down to pick up a grain of rice despite her injured finger, he is overcome by guilt and sorrow.

Honey, one of the readers gives an interpretation that seems to be apt:
I think the rain personified as a tailor who in vain tries to stitch rags with broken threads. It is also used as a metaphor standing for mother who is the cementing factor trying to keep family intact without getting fragmented, by stitching the holes & cementing the cracks by acting as a unifying factor

If you think this explanation has helped you, kindly donate money to the orphanage for girls that my friend runs. You can know about it at https://sites.google.com/site/annaineomianbuillam/

40 comments:

shreya said...

hello sir... m a student of 12th cbse and i was really havin trble wid dis poem...each tym i read it i decifered different meanings...i'd like to thnk u for dis wonderful explanation of dis poem... its really a v difficult poem n i loved d way u aptly decifered d meanings out of it. all made perfect sense and inturn a beautiful picture of d poem in my mind. it's really a beautiful piece of poetry!

Abe Pat said...

hi shreya,
glad that this explanation helped u. when i discussed this explanation with another teacher he did give another meaning for the metaphor of the rain. i'll try n include it. also i haven't commented about the title of the poem. i shall do so soon.
thanks for the comment n appreciation. this was my first blog n the first comment. actually i teach in the gulf where there is a dearth of critical books n nothing available on the net regarding this poem.. so i read n tried to make sense myself.

shrutz said...

hello sir
we are students of class 12 cbse
we have been given the task of doin d seminar for dis poem
i want ur help
could u please give explanation paragraph wise and the significance of the title
we hav only 1 week
thanks for ur time
shruti & sushma

doyal said...

Dear Sir,
I am a student of T.Y Eng Litt. and i was just going through this poem which i did in my class 12 and i saw your interpretation. M glad People still value the fact that poetry can and should have multiple interpretations. I would, with your permission sir, like to add a few interpretations of my own just to help these students out.

With the "twisted Black bone tree" i interpret the similarity that the poet is trying to project between the rough bark of the tree weathered with time but at the same time the life and all that a tree witnesses over its lifetime. It stands still and sees all that happens around it silently and continues to do its own bit...mutely. never complaining..only seeing. so is the situation of a lady particularly in the Indian system of things.That tree which could have flourished into a beauty has been twisted and hurt over and over again to the extent that it is left with nothing but only its sense of duty and responsibility.

I hope you like my interpretation and i would sincerely appreciate criticism.

Abe Pat said...

Dear Mr Doyal,
thanks for your comment. the interpretation u have given is excellent and apt and adds more to the meaning of the poem.
I hope you don't mind adding your explanation along with what i've given.
thanks a lot

vp here, said...

Dear Sir,

I am a student of class XII CBSE this year.

Thanks a lot for making such an enlightening and thought provoking commentary on various images used in the poem. I feel that the brilliant excavations attempted by your goodself to unearth the metaphorical treasure - so subtly studded into the tapestry of this poetic piece - deserves accolades.

Sir, I would sincerely appreciate your magnanimity further, if you kindly spare some time to share your reflections on a particular image, used by Ramanujan, namely, "tree-tasselled light" with emphasis on 'light' used as a noun and 'tree-tasselled' as an adjective; and in the light of this phrase the complete 'literal' meaning (not the metaphorial sense, as that has been done beautifully by you)of the rain image.

Looking forward to your meaningful inputs on the rain imagery,

Thanks a lot,

With regards,

Rajesh,

Anandalaya,
NDDB Campus, Anand - 388001
GUJARAT

Ashwin Sinha said...

Thank You Sir,
This was indeed very helpful for me just 8 hours before my exam & i would certainly appreciate your helpful gesture. Your efforts to put this up on the web are the ones of ideal teachers who can adapt themselves to the new technology & help thousands like me. Thank You Sir & a belated Happy Teacher's Day !!

shikha said...

thank a lot i was searching for this poem really u helped me as an angle........ thanx a lot and ur explanation is awesome.........to those student who r not getting the explanations in college

Anonymous said...

hello sir...how are you doing.....you may not remember me but i studied in the assam valley school. Its a very nice blog you have put up sir.
P.S- Good to know that you listen to classic rock stuff sir. Even a lot of us aviators are into rock and philosophy. :)

Kavya said...

Sir,
I find the last stanza inadequitely explained. I would like to know if the following interpretation is a possibility? :

The poet feels numb and helpless as he sees his mother, now old and frail, trying to pick up the grain of rice with great difficulty, now with only 4 old and sensible (working) fingers. His mouth is dry, parched and feels abrasive like licking a bark. This show how overcome by emotion the poet becomes.

Abe Pat said...

Hi Kavya.
I feel your explanation perfectly fits the last stanza. Well done. I shall include this in the blog acknowledging you. This is poetry: as long as your interpretation is backed by the text and is relevant to the text any interpretation is acceptable.

Anonymous said...

sir,i would like to ask you if the line talking about the rain tacking can be elucidated in the following manner

just as the rain covers all the light piercing through the tree (its leaves)which are visible during the daylight where the droplets are the threads, in the same manner mother tacks and sews the family together through her efforts.

Anonymous said...

Sir, i wud lyk 2 whether'eagle'is a possible metaphor for the mother of hw she flies high in d society n protects her children n bears their suffering,n of hw she is majestic, possessive,powerful spl in case of her children just like an eagle

Rangashree said...

Thank you so much.I have a test on this poem tomorrow and managed to get the gist of the poem thanks to the summary given here. A million thanks. =)
Rangashree

Anonymous said...

Mr.Abraham, you are a life-saver. I suggest you write a synopsis of all the lessons in prose. You make it very easy for us to understand difficult literature.

shefali said...

shefali said...
thank you so muchhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
i m a student of 12 fmm
and i was getting problem in summary of this poem but you solve it thanks a lot once again

Anonymous said...

thanks sir this summary really helped me..

Anonymous said...

sir can you give the paraphrase of the poem sympathy

Anonymous said...

SIR,
Thank you for your summary....sir can the lines "the rain tack and sew...light"be interpreted in the following way?
"just as the rain covers all the light piercing through the tree,in the same manner mother tacks and sews the family together through her efforts."

Anonymous said...

sir,
thank you for the summary...i think now i am much better after reading the summary. sir,could you please explain these lines "my cold parchment tongue licks bark...."in better terms???

sumer broota said...

sir,
this interpretation of the poem is absolutely correct, i always turn to your explanations and they do help me alot
thank you
regards sumer broota

Anonymous said...

dear sir,
my name's jaison jose. now presently in 12th. I got my exams tommorow :) . and the summary of the poems have helped me a lot to revise through .

wished you had still continued in isa .

with regards,
jaison.

Rahul Ranjan said...

Hello Sir and gud evning......
tomorrow is my preboard of english and dis poem was just troubling me like anything...for dis wonderful explanation i thank you from core of my heart.....Thank you once again

Shweta said...

I would like to add my interpretation of the last few lines. I feel that through those lines the poet is also expressing his guilt. He took his mother for granted as almost all children do. Even the title "Of Mothers, Among Other Things" suggests that we consider our mothers as ordinary as the other things in life. But when the poet sees his old and frail mother bend down to pick up a grain of rice despite her injured finger, he is overcome by guilt and sorrow.

Abe Pat said...

Thanks Shweta. That was an interesting interpretation. Hopeyou don't mind my posting it in the explanation. I have acknowledged your name.

Honey said...

i think the rain personified as a tailor who in vain tries to stitch rags with broken threads. It is also used as a metaphor standing for mother who is the cementing factor trying to keep family entact without getting fragmented by stitching the holes & cementing the cracks by acting as a unifying factor

nayak said...

Tanks for d sumary.itz beutiful

nayak said...

'twas good. tanks for d sumary

nayak said...

'twas good. tanks for d sumary

samata said...

Thank you so much for this write up on this poem. It helped me a lot. I specially liked the way the mother is compared to the king of the birds, the eagle, indeed all the qualities of eagle are embedded in mother.

samata

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot sir! This summary was of great help to me and made it quite easy to understand this poem over which I've been sweating overfor the past couple of days. Thanks again.:D

Treble Talks said...

Thanks for the summary sir, could you please write a summary for 'On Education' - Albert Einstein, please?

sanjeet said...

Gud.... Reading it a day before examination really helped me...!!! Thank you sir!!

Swetha said...

Nice.... Thx sir... U rock sir...

cherry said...

i would like to add some explanation to the lines 8-10. It can also mean that as the rain acts as a tailor and stitches with broken threads the rags of the tree tasselled light, the drops of the water covers the whole tree can be compared to the mother showing her economic nature of handling the house efficiently ensuring no wastage is done just like the water droplets ensures that the rain stitches the whole tree with a broken fragile thread indicating the middle age of the mother.

Anonymous said...

i wud like to add another explanation in the end that on seeing his mother doing the house hold work in-spite of being infirm , old and fragile the poet experiences a feeling of guilt and regret. As he comes across a realization that he had been taking his mother for granted

pillows said...

So thankful of you..tommorow's my English exam... And you like saved me, seriously!!! ;*

Anonymous said...

I need that too..

Amatul Nadia said...

thank u for d wonderful explanation

Amatul Nadia said...

thank u for d wonderful explanation